How one Calgary man was overcharged on his electricity bill for 12 years

For the last 12 years, Steve Coutts has been paying his condo electricity bill on time and in full. There was just one problem.

Downtown Calgary condo owner noticed spike in usage after taking long vacation

A Calgary man was overcharged by Enmax for 12 years on his home electricity bill before discovering what was wrong. (Evelyne Asselin/CBC)

For the last 12 years, Steve Coutts has been paying his condo electricity bill on time and in full.

There was just one problem. He'd been paying the wrong bill.

Last summer, Coutts left his downtown condo in Calgary's west end and went on a five-week vacation. When he returned, he found his electricity bill had actually spiked while he was gone. 

Low electricity, high bill

"I was quite shocked that I had this massive electrical bill," Coutts told the Calgary Eyeopener. "It was definitely a lot larger than typical. I thought, 'This can't be possible. Something is wrong.'"

He'd noticed inconsistencies in the past with his power bill, but nothing like this. His monthly bill had typically been between  $40 and $60 dollars per month. This one was $180.

So Coutts began to investigate.

"I called Enmax," he said. "I told them that I was away for most of the summer and I have this massive electrical bill and they came up with a few suggestions."

The electricity company advised Coutts to shut off various breakers in order to isolate certain rooms — hopefully to determine which room in his 1,000-square-foot condo was using the most power.

Coutts took that idea a step further, shutting down all the power to his unit.

"I went down to the electrical panel where all the meters are and I took a picture of my meter and took the dog out for a walk," he said.

"Two hours later I came back and took a picture of my meter again. And over that time, my meter had racked up five kilowatts of usage, so my meter was running with all the power cut."

Coutts called Enmax to explain what he'd discovered, and began what would turn into a 100-day process to get the issue resolved. 

"I started to really lose patience and I called in a few more times and I felt like I wasn't getting anywhere," he said.

Meter mix-up

Eventually, Coutts reached out to local media in an effort to force Enmax to move faster. Not long after, he received a phone call from the company. He then received a cheque for $4,500.

Coutts discovered that he had actually been paying his neighbour's power bill — which was higher than his — for more than a decade. The labelling on the meters had been switched in error, and his neighbour had been paying Coutt's bill. 

"Forty-five hundred bucks is a pretty big surprise." he said.

CBC reached out to Enmax for a response. The company said the issue has been resolved.

As for what Coutts will do with his unexpected windfall, he says he might take another vacation. 

"They got it done right in the end and that's all that matters to me."

With files from the Calgary Eyeopener