Frequently asked questions
What is an Ombudsman?
The word “Ombudsman” is a gender-neutral Scandinavian term and means “representative” or “proxy”. An Ombudsman is an individual who serves as a designated neutral within a specific organization, providing conflict resolution and problem-solving services to clients or customers of the organization.
What does the Hydro One Ombudsman do?
The Hydro One Ombudsman investigates complaints about unfairness in the delivery of services by Hydro One and its subsidiaries. The Ombudsman is independent of the company’s operations and reports directly to the Board of Directors. The authority of the Ombudsman comes from The Electricity Act, 1998 and the mandate issued by Hydro One’s Board of Directors in October 2015.
When should I contact the Ombudsman?
The Ombudsman is an “office of last resort,” a place to turn when all other attempts at resolving your complaint with Hydro One have failed. Contact the Ombudsman if you have been unable to resolve a problem with Hydro One through its internal complaint process, are experiencing unreasonable delays getting a response from Hydro One, or simply aren’t sure where to turn next.
What does “office of last resort” mean?
It means we are the final step in Hydro One’s complaints process. Typically, Hydro One should be given the chance to hear your complaint and try to resolve it before the Ombudsman gets involved. However, there are exceptions to this. For example, the Ombudsman may look into a complaint if there’s been a significant delay in getting a response from Hydro One, or the complainant is particularly vulnerable or marginalized.
Can the Ombudsman investigate any type of complaint?
The Ombudsman’s mandate is to look at complaints about the services provided by Hydro One and its subsidiaries. Complaints investigated by our Office are typically limited to those less than one year old, with some exceptions.
Examples of complaints that the Ombudsman cannot review include the following:
- Electricity prices (they are set by the Ontario Energy Board)
- Provincial Government decisions (e.g. privatization of Hydro One, use of Smart/Time of Use Meters)
- Electricity Support Programs (e.g. Ontario Electricity Support Program)
- Eligibility Criteria for Conservation Programs (e.g. Save on Energy)
- Companies that provide electricity to the public (“Local Distribution Companies”) other than Hydro One
- Electricity Retailers
- Hydro One Executive Compensation
Who can complain to the Ombudsman?
Anyone who has interacted with or been impacted by Hydro One’s services or operations may contact the Ombudsman. Whether the Office can assist directly, and what type of assistance we may be able to provide, will depend on the nature of the complaint. Contact us to find out more.
Does it cost anything to complain to the Ombudsman?
No. Our services are completely free of charge to complainants.
What happens after I submit my complaint?
After we receive your complaint, someone from our Office will contact you to discuss the details further and explore how we may be able to assist. To find out more about when you can expect to hear from us, or how long it typically takes to resolve a complaint, click here.
Will the Ombudsman speak with me and handle my case personally?
The Ombudsman leads and supervises a team of dedicated professionals who will work with you. Although you will not work directly with the Ombudsman, she will be involved in deciding whether or not an investigation is necessary, along with any findings, conclusions and recommendations that may follow.
How long does it take for the Ombudsman’s Office to respond to my complaint?
We typically return calls and emails within hours, but promise to acknowledge complaints received by telephone within 1 business day and within 2 business days for complaints received by email or through our online complaint form. General information on the timelines you can expect from us can be found here.
What powers does the Ombudsman have?
The Ombudsman has full authority to review and investigate complaints that fall within its jurisdiction – this includes unrestricted access to any information, documents or staff interviews required to complete our investigation.
Can the Ombudsman force Hydro One to take a specific action?
No. The Ombudsman’s power does not include compelling Hydro One to take any specific actions, but instead the Ombudsman makes recommendations to address any unfairness identified.
Can someone complain to the Ombudsman on my behalf?
Yes, but we require the account holder’s consent before sharing information or making any inquiries with Hydro One. Without consent we can still record the details of the complaint, but will not be able to take active steps to resolve it.
Can I submit an anonymous complaint?
Yes, but without the account holder’s consent we can only track that we have received the complaint, and will not be able to take any active steps to resolve it.
If I tell the Ombudsman my name, will I be identified to the company or named publically?
Complaints to the Ombudsman are treated as confidential. Your identity will not be disclosed to Hydro One, the Board of Directors, or to anyone else without your consent. However, in order for us to investigate or attempt to resolve a complaint, your consent is necessary.
If you do not wish to identify yourself in your complaint, we can still record that we received it, but will not be able to take any active steps to resolve it.
My bill is wrong, can the Ombudsman help me correct it?
If you believe your bill is wrong, we can discuss those concerns with you and ensure you are connected to the right people within Hydro One to get your concerns reviewed. We can help to ensure the bills were issued on time, that the charges are based on actual meter readings, and that if errors are found that late payment charges are reversed.
My bill is correct but I can’t afford it, what can the Ombudsman do?
While we are unable to lower the amount of your bills, we can assist you in connecting with Hydro One to ensure you are aware of payment or conservation programs available to you. We can also ensure customers behind in their bill payments are offered installment plans from Hydro One, but we do not get involved in negotiating payment arrangements or the possibility of reduced settlements.
Is there a timeframe to make a complaint to the Ombudsman?
A complaint is best brought to our Office as soon as possible after you have received a final decision from Hydro One. While we typically limit reviews to complaints less than a year old, exceptions include cases where the issues are ongoing or other compelling circumstances exist. However, there are some situations where the passage of time will prevent the Ombudsman from completing an investigation, including where a material portion of the records, information or staff involved are no longer available.
Isn’t the Ombudsman part of Hydro One? Why does it say it is “Independent”?
The Ombudsman reports directly to the Board of Directors for Hydro One and operates separately from Hydro One’s business and typical staff structure. There are protections in place to ensure our work is performed both confidentially and independently.
What if I am not satisfied with the outcome after complaining to the Ombudsman’s Office?
We strive to arrive at reasonable outcomes to all complaints that come to our Office, but it is possible some people will remain unhappy. Our process is completely voluntary, and complainants who are unsatisfied with our outcomes are free to pursue their complaints through other available avenues– including the courts.
Where can I complain if I am not happy with the service provided by the Ombudsman’s Office?
We certainly do our best to ensure this doesn’t happen, but if you are not happy with the service provided by one of the Office staff, please send your concerns to us in writing. The Ombudsman will review your concerns personally and provide a response.
I have an emergency, are you available 24/7?
Our Office is not an emergency service. Although we are typically open 9am-5pm, Monday to Friday for complaint intake, our investigation process can take up to 30 business days.
If you have an outage issue, contact Hydro One’s outage hotline at 1-800-434-1235. If you have a customer service issue, contact Hydro One’s Customer Care Centre 1-888-664-9376. If you have a life-threatening emergency, call 911.
I have a power outage, where should I call?
If you are a Hydro One customer, call the province-wide outage hotline at 1-800-434-1235. They are available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
I have been disconnected, what do I do?
We understand how hard it can be to have your electricity disconnected. If you haven’t had a chance to speak with the company about this, a good first step is to call Hydro One’s Customer Care Centre at 1-888-664-9376. If you experience difficulties reaching the company, do not hesitate to contact us and we can help make that connection.
If you have been unable to reach a resolution with Hydro One, please call us to discuss. We can review your particular situation to ensure you’ve been treated fairly and that all options have been presented to you.