Nova Scotia

Nova Scotia Power customers no longer in the dark about complaint process

Nova Scotia Power has a dispute resolution officer to deal with customer complaints when talks with the call centre fail. But finding out about this additional option from the company had been next to impossible.

Consumer advocate says lack of information about a dispute resolution officer was 'unacceptable'

Nova Scotia Power customers can finally find information on the company's dispute resolution officer on its website. (iStock)

If you've ever challenged a Nova Scotia Power bill and received no relief from the company's call centre, you probably thought that was the end of the road for your complaint.

And you wouldn't be alone. That's because even though NSP must have a dispute resolution officer to deal with complaints when talks with the call centre fail, finding out about this additional option from the company, let alone who to contact, has been next to impossible.

The issue arose when a Truro woman contacted CBC News to ask how she should proceed with a complaint about Nova Scotia Power. She had been in email contact with NSP last August until the company stopped responding to her inquiries.

The Nova Scotia Utility and Review Board, which regulates NSP, requires the company to have a dispute resolution officer as a next step.

Any complaint must go to the officer before the UARB will consider it, but no information could be easily located on the Nova Scotia Power website informing customers of this option.

Website search garnered no information

CBC News searched the company's website for "DRO" and "Dispute Resolution Officer" but neither turned up any information.

CBC News also twice called the Nova Scotia Power call centre asking for contact information for the dispute resolution officer. In both instances, the customer service representative was not aware of the position and sent us to the main switchboard, which said there was no DRO in their listings.

We were subsequently sent to "legal" and given a number that was not for the dispute resolution officer.

CBC News contacted a Nova Scotia Power spokesperson on Monday, asking why information about the dispute resolution officer was not readily available on the site or through the call centre.

Spokeswoman Bev Ware said the company would "look into it," adding in an email: "The DRO's contact information is also available from the board, from our Low Income advisory members or various social/government agencies including the consumer advocate."

'A hidden appeal process is no appeal process'

But consumer advocate Bill Mahody calls the lack of information from the company unacceptable.

"There's little purpose in having a dispute resolution officer if you don't provide your customers with the instructions about how to contact the individual," he said.

"A hidden appeal process is no appeal process at all. So the first thing customers need to be made aware of, and the company is obligated to make them aware of, is to whom they take the complaint."

He said the company ought to have that information easily accessible on its website and customer service representatives should be able to tell consumers who to contact next.

Late Tuesday, CBC News received an email from Nova Scotia Power saying the dispute resolution officer's contact information has been added to the website.

It's not on the home page, but under the "Contact Us" tab. You must scroll down to see it.

Mahody said he's pleased Nova Scotia Power responded quickly to the issue and called it a "positive development."

He credited CBC News with bringing the issue to the fore.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Yvonne Colbert

Consumer Watchdog

Yvonne Colbert has been a journalist for nearly 35 years, covering everything from human interest stories to the provincial legislature. These days she helps consumers navigate an increasingly complex marketplace and avoid getting ripped off. She invites story ideas at yvonne.colbert@cbc.ca

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