Volume 94, Issue 80

Wednesday, February 14, 2001


Presidential voting demands answers

Change of fortune for Napster

Online learning focus of new fed committee

Dyer predicts democratic China in 10 years

Students shocked by high hydro bills


Couch potatoes get no respect: study

Students say credit is no good

School dress code could be the norm

His Royal Mintiness

Students shocked by high hydro bills

By Raj Suppiah
Gazette Staff

Some residents of London are being shocked by unreasonable electricity bills due to a glitch in a new computer system installed by London Hydro.

Bernie Watts, general manager of London Hydro, said that with any piece of large software there are always problems to be expected. He said normally Hydro bills clients monthly, but only physically checks the meters every other month.

He said the computer estimates a reading for each of the off-months and bills the customer appropriately. The problem lies in the fact that metre readings, which are taken outside of the normal distribution of readings, are discarded by the computer and replaced with a computer generated estimate.

Watts stated that London Hydro is looking into the whole estimation part of the system, installed in April of last year. "We do recognize this as a problem, and question whether it is sensible. Our previous system was used for 20 years and problems also occurred then."

Watts said customer service calls have been higher since the new system was installed. "Most customers are asking for explanations on their bills rather than making complaints."

The Vancouver-based Sierra Systems Consulting Inc. that developed the customer billing and customer information software for London, also supplies many utility corporations around the country, including hydro in Hamilton, Kingston, Saskatoon and Kitchener, said Al Ytsma, vice-president of Sierra.

"All software has problems from time to time. However, once our client reports a problem, we will fix it as soon as possible," he said.

Ytsma also said that they have not heard from London Hydro since Oct. 2000. "It may not necessarily be a software defect, it could just be a change in the way they run their business," he said adding that up until this point, no major problems have been encountered with the software in other cities, including London.

Jeff Hignett, a third-year geography student, said he received an unusually expensive hydro bill for the month of January, amounting to about a $15 hike.

"The hydro bill never seemed to fluctuate too much, this last bill threw us off guard. You trust [the hydro companies] to organize their business and get their numbers correct. Obviously I have less trust now."

Watts said he reassured students and residents of London any problems would be rectified. "If you think you have a problem with your bill, you should call customer service and we will get in there and fix it."

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