Rules for electricity utilities

See the customer services rules for electricity utilities, including special rules for low-income customers.
Consumer protection

There are specific rules governing customer service that all electricity utilities must follow. Here are a few examples of the rules we have made to protect you as a residential electricity consumer:

  • You cannot have your electricity supply disconnected without having 10 days’ notice.
  • You’re entitled to have your security deposit returned if you have one year of good payment history.
  • Generally, you must be provided with payment options, including an equal monthly payment plan.
  •  If you are overdue on paying your bills and facing disconnection, in most cases, the utility must offer you the chance to go on a payment plan.
  • Your electricity supply can’t be disconnected for non-payment during the winter months, from November 15 to April 30.

If you live in a condo or apartment that has its own individual meter and your bill comes from a company other than the local utility, you are a customer of a unit sub-meter provider. Most of our customer service rules for utilities also apply to unit sub-meter providers. Any differences are noted below.

Exceptions for low-income households

If you are qualified as a low-income customer, you may, in some cases, be exempt from having to pay a security deposit. Disconnection can also be delayed if a LEAP intake agency informs the utility that it is checking to see if you qualify for emergency financial assistance under our low-income energy consumer programs.

Rules for all electricity consumers

No matter where you live in the province, you can expect a similar level of service from your electricity utility or unit sub-meter provider. If your electricity utility or unit sub-meter provider isn’t following the rules we establish for customer service, we have the authority, as Ontario’s energy regulator, to make it comply. And, you’re entitled to make a complaint about them to us. If you have a complaint about an energy company we regulate, submit it online.

The rules are listed below. Most of our customer service rules for utilities also apply to unit sub-meter providers. Any differences are noted below. We refer to both utilities and unit sub-meter providers together as electricity provider.

Electricity providers often ask new customers for a security deposit. You do not have a choice about paying. An electricity provider can disconnect your service or refuse to connect you if the deposit is not paid.

Think of security deposits as a kind of protection. They reduce the amount of bad debt your local utility is exposed to. And in doing so, they help maintain a financially viable energy sector, where customers receive a reliable supply of electricity at a reasonable cost.

This chart shows who must pay a security deposit and who is exempt.

You may be asked for a deposit if: You are exempt if:
New customers
  • You have no payment history with another electricity provider
  • You have poor payment history with another electricity provider
  • You cannot show the utility a satisfactory credit record (at your expense)
  • You can demonstrate 1 year of good payment history with another electricity provider
Existing Customers
  • You have received more than 1 disconnection notice over the past year
  • You have bounced more than 1 cheque
  • You have failed to pay more than 1 pre-authorized payment
  • You have been disconnected over the past year
  • You have been subject to a collect trip by the utility
  • You have had your deposit applied to outstanding debt and must pay it back
 

Deposits are calculated using your recent electricity bills. The maximum deposit amount an electricity provider can ask for is 2.5 times your average monthly bill.

If you do not have a history with the electricity provider, they can use a reasonable estimate - like the average bills from the residence you are moving into - to calculate the deposit. If your electricity usage goes up, the electricity provider can ask for an additional security deposit as long as it does not go over the maximum amount.

As a residential customer, you have at least 6 months to pay your deposit in equal instalments.

Can I get my deposit back?

Residential customers with 1 year of good payment history will have their deposits returned.

Non-residential customers of a utility that are in a less-than-50kW demand class must have 5 years of good payment history in order to get their deposit back. The same is true of any non-residential customer of a unit sub-meter provider.

If you move or close your account with an electricity provider, they have up to 6 weeks to return your deposit, but they also have the right to use the security deposit to offset any other amounts that you owe. They must also pay interest on the deposit, which is calculated at the Bank of Canada’s prime business rate less 2%. Interest is paid once every 12 months if the deposit is retained.

Electricity utilities must offer you the option to join what is called an equal monthly payment plan.

However, if you are enrolled with an electricity retailer or if you owe your electricity utility money for unpaid bills, you may not be allowed to join an equal monthly payment plan.

Unit sub-meter providers do not have to offer equal billing to their customers.

How it works:

  • Typically, your utility will add up your bills for the last 12 months and divide the total by 12 to get the average. That is the amount they will bill you each month.
  • You may also have to sign up to have your payments automatically withdrawn from your bank account.
  • Your utility will review your equal monthly payment plan at least once per calendar year to make sure you have not paid too much or too little.

Late payment penalties are a way to encourage prompt payment of bills. When you pay on time, it reduces additional costs to your utility provider … and that lowers delivery rates for all consumers

Interest Rate Limits

Ontario utilities can charge customers a late payment penalty of 1.5% per month (effective annual rate of 19.56%  per year or 0.04896% per day) - the maximum allowed by the Ontario Energy Board for electricity utilities. It’s a good idea to pay your bill promptly. Unit sub-meter providers are allowed to charge penalties for late payment; the rate is set in their contracts with building management.

For all electricity providers, late payment charges will begin 16 days after your bill is issued. This chart shows how it works:

Billing Terms

Issue Date A bill's Issue Date is defined as 3 days after it was printed, if sent by mail. If the bill was emailed, the Issue Date is defined as the date it was sent.
Received A bill payment, if mailed, is considered received by the electricity provider 3 days before the company actually receives it.
If paying at a bank or by credit card, the payment is considered received when the financial institution acknowledges it. Occasionally, that will not be the same day it was paid.
Due Date due date scheduled on a weekend or holiday is considered the next business day.

As a final step before disconnection, your electricity provider must give you the chance to go on a payment plan. This payment plan is known as an Arrears Payment Agreement.

How it works:

  • If you have a security deposit with your electricity provider, they must use it toward the amount owing.
  • The electricity provider will charge you a down payment. The down payment can be as much as 15% of the total amount you owe. You may also have to pay any additional service charges (such as a reconnection charge) on top of that.
  • The electricity provider will then calculate the new total you owe.

How much time you have to pay the arrears

The electricity provider will determine the amount of time you have to pay the amount owed.

If you owe: Then your payment plan timeline will be:
Less than twice your average monthly bill At least 5 months
More than twice your average monthly bill At least 10 months

Getting your power reconnected

For utility customers, if you’ve entered into a payment plan after your power has been disconnected, you can generally expect your utility to reconnect your electricity supply within 2 business days. In about 15% of cases, it will take longer than that. Unit sub-meter providers do not have a specific time frame for reconnecting their customers.

Don’t miss payments

Once you begin making monthly payments, you must still pay your regular electricity bills. If you miss more than one payment on either the plan or your bills, the electricity provider can cancel the payment plan. They can then take steps to disconnect you.

See if you qualify

If you’ve already been on an arrears payment plan for unpaid bills in the past 2 years, your electricity provider may refuse to allow another one. They may move to disconnect your service if you have unpaid bills.

If you fail to pay your electricity bill, your electricity provider can disconnect your supply. They can also disconnect power if you fail to pay a required security deposit. If you have paid a security deposit, it will be applied to the amount you owe before your electricity supply is disconnected. Electricity distributors cannot disconnect you for non-payment in the winter months, between November 15 and April 30. See next section for details.

Before disconnecting you, the electricity provider must give you a minimum of 10 days’ notice. Once the notice period ends, your service can be disconnected at any point during the following 11 days. If a social service agency informs them that it is checking to see if you qualify for emergency financial assistance under our low-income energy consumer programs, the electricity provider will delay disconnecting your service for up to 21 days. If you have medical equipment that relies on electricity, and have provided the utility with documentation from your doctor, the provider must give you at least 60 days’ notice before disconnecting you.

This chart shows the process for disconnections.

disconnection timeline

Avoiding disconnection

To avoid disconnection, it is important to contact your electricity provider as soon as you receive that notice. Do not delay.

The quickest way to keep your electricity connected is by paying your outstanding balance.

If you cannot pay the amount you owe, you have the option of setting up a payment plan (an Arrears Payment Agreement) that will allow you to repay your debt over a period of time. It does not excuse you from paying the amount owed or from paying your new bill.

Disconnection timeline

If you fail to pay your outstanding debt and fail to agree on a payment plan, your electricity provider can disconnect you.

Your electricity provider must make a reasonable effort to contact you one last time at least 48 hours before disconnection. They can do this in person or by telephone. Once they do this, the process is nearing an end.

You should make sure the electricity provider has up-to-date contact information on file. When it comes time to contact you 48 hours before a disconnection, the electricity provider is considered to have made a reasonable effort whether or not they actually speak with you in person or on the phone.

Disconnections are NOT allowed during the winter

Licensed electricity utilities are banned from disconnecting residential customers for non-payment during the winter every year, from November 15 to April 30. Homes that are already disconnected when the ban goes into effect must be reconnected without charge. The Ontario Energy Board  has also banned the use of load control devices on homes during the same period and requires utilities to remove existing devices on homes, again without charge.

If you have past due amounts on your bill, the utility may continue to charge late payment fees on these amounts. Customers are still required to pay their bill when the disconnection ban is lifted in April. Special programs are available to help low-income consumers.

Last chance

For utility customers, you may also be able to pay off your outstanding balance when a worker arrives to cut off your power. According to Ontario Energy Board rules, the utility must have staff available to accept your payment at that time. They must also accept credit cards. If the company chooses, it can accept other forms of payment too. These rules do not apply to unit sub-meter providers.

The electricity provider does not have to inform you that the disconnection is about to happen. Do not wait for them to show up.

To contact your utility about their disconnection policy, see the list and find their contact information

Reconnection fee

For utility customers, the utility will generally charge you a fee to reconnect service. If you are unable to pay the charge, the utility must offer you a reasonable payment arrangement following the reconnection.

Low-income customers do not have to pay this charge.

If your power gets cut off, it will cost:

$65 to reconnect during regular hours*

OR

$185 to reconnect after hours*

*In some cases, the cost will be higher.
 

For utility customers, once you’ve paid your bill in full or entered into a payment plan agreement, you should generally expect the utility to reconnect your service within 2 business days. In about 15% of cases, it will take the utility longer than 2 days. Unit sub-meter providers do not have a specific time frame for reconnecting their customers.