Hydro One customers in northeastern Ontario say now that the province's Ombudsman has pledged an investigation into the utility's billing practices, they don't feel so alone in their struggle.

Some say the news of Andre Marin's involvement gives them hope.

Marin announced yesterday he's embarking on a nine-month investigation of the utility, after receiving 650 complaints in the last 10 months.

“We've had complaints about someone whose house burnt down and there was no hydro and he was still getting bills and having difficulty getting answers from Hydro One,” Marin said.

Shelley Fox

Shelley Fox, an Ontario Hydro customer in Sudbury, said she's been dealing with higher-than-usual payments, as well as gaps when no bills were sent. (Kate Rutherford/CBC)

Sudbury Hydro One customer Shelley Fox said she's been dealing with higher-than-usual payments, as well as gaps, when no bills were sent.

Fox said she and her husband were getting discouraged.

“Originally we were thinking about dropping it and just paying it and closing our eyes and taking it for what it is but, after hearing everyone else's story, it certainly encouraged us to realize that other people are in the same situation as us.

'Ridiculousness' of bills

South River Hydro One customer Pearl Pennell said she was also was losing hope — and talking to the operators at Hydro One was discouraging.

“You get the feeling that you're suspected of just wasting hydro, then whining about having to pay for it. That's the feeling that I got,” she said.

Pennell and Fox said they're aware the Ombudsman's investigation will take nine months and his recommendations are not binding.

But they still feel that finally, someone is taking them seriously.

“I think it's great because I know I’m not the only one in the world who had the problem,” Pennell said.

“Everybody I speak to has been [lamenting] about the ridiculousness of their [bills], how much it's gone up."

Hydro One said it will co-operate fully with the Ombudsman's investigation and has apologized for poor customer service.

The utility has also said it has hired more people and is providing better training in an effort to improve customer service.

Hydro One customers who think they're owed a refund because of over payment are being asked to phone 1-888-664-9376.

For those who want to be part of the Ombudsman's investigation, they can go to his website and click on the button that says Have a Complaint?