Empowering utility consumers
Bills 13 and 14 have been introduced to better protect natural gas, electricity and water utility consumers.
Status: Bill 13 introduced April 19, Bill 14 introduced April 18
Ministry responsible: Energy and Service Alberta
The Utilities Consumer Advocate (UCA) provides consumer education and mediation services to Albertans for natural gas and electricity. There is currently no provincial organization in place to assist consumers with water utilities.
Water customers routinely call the UCA for help on water issues including billing, customer service, disconnection, education and metering. Most of these calls are forwarded to the water utility companies or municipalities.
The UCA also continues to receive complaints from natural gas and electricity customers about inaccurate bills and poor service. This demonstrates the need for more efficient enforcement of customer service quality standards. Currently, the only enforcement tool is a formal hearing process with the Alberta Utilities Commission (AUC), which can be lengthy and costly.
Bill 13: An Act to Secure Alberta's Electricity Future has been introduced to better protect natural gas and electricity customers from poor service by allowing the Alberta Utilities Commission (AUC) to issue specified penalties to utility providers for minor infractions.
If passed, the specified penalities would:
- provide the AUC with the ability to issue fines up to $10,000 daily per infraction to enforce minor breaches of its rules, orders and decisions in a more timely, efficient and effective manner
- help ensure natural gas and electricity providers are more accountable to their customers
- improve the level of service customers receive from their electric and natural gas providers
Fact sheet: Specified penalties (PDF, 49 KB)
If the legislation is passed, the AUC will consult with consumers and utility providers to develop rules and penalties that are clear and fair.
Bill 14: An Act to Empower Utility Consumers has been introduced to better protect water consumers by expanding and clarifying the role of the Utilities Consumer Advocate (UCA) to include water utilities such as drinking water, sewage disposal and drainage.
If passed, the UCA would:
- provide mediation services to help Albertans resolve concerns with their water utility providers
- educate consumers about water utilities through its website, consumer contact centre and at trade shows and other community events
- be allowed to collect and disseminate information about the performance of electricity and natural gas utility providers in areas such as:
- customer service
- compliance with laws and standards
- history of enforcement actions
- history of complaints and major issues
How UCA helps
Water, electricity and natural gas are the main utilities in most homes. The Utilities Consumer Advocate helps utility customers by providing:
- Consumer resources
- UCA serves as a one-stop shop for utility consumers for help and information.
- UCA received 24,435 calls and conducted 5,290 mediations in the 2017-18 fiscal year.
- Advocates for consumers during regulatory proceedings of the Alberta Utilities Commission.
- Mediation services
- UCA's mediation officers act as a neutral third party to identify the source of the issue and address the concern when the consumer is unable to obtain a resolution from the utility provider directly.
- Solutions provided by the UCA help protect consumers while remaining balanced between both parties.
- Consumer education
- UCA helps Albertans make informed energy decisions by posting tools and information on ucahelps.alberta.ca, participating in trade shows and community events, as well as speaking to community groups, trade associations and not-for-profit organizations.
- Information to consumers
- UCA provides objective information about the customer service performance of utility companies on its website, including mediation summaries, average resolution time and compliance levels.
- Bill 14 would allow the UCA to collect and share more of this information publicly.
- Information could be obtained from the Alberta Utilities Commission or Service Alberta's Director of Fair Trading.
About the AUC
The Alberta Utilities Commission is an independent utility regulator responsible for:
- ensuring Alberta’s utility services are delivered fairly, responsibly and in the public interest
- providing regulatory oversight related to the development and operation of the retail gas and electricity markets in the province
Further information will be announced soon.