To view this presentation as a webinar with sound visit Your Legal Rights www.yourlegalrights.on.ca/training Your Legal Ri...
LOW-INCOME ENERGY NETWORK Webinar November 10, 2011 <ul><li>Agenda </li></ul><ul><li>Introduction: LIEN’s energy poverty s...
The content of this webinar is based on law that was current on the date the webinar was recorded. Your Legal Rights webin...
Barb De Ruyter is a strategic research and marketing professional who has twenty-five years of experience in the public, p...
LOW-INCOME ENERGY NETWORK LIEN’s  Energy Poverty Strategy LIEN webinar,  November  10, 2011
About LIEN <ul><li>LIEN is a network of environmental, anti-poverty and affordable housing advocacy groups </li></ul><ul><...
Energy poverty strategy – context <ul><li>Environmental, social and economic… </li></ul><ul><li>Ontario’s long term energy...
Rising energy prices <ul><li>Real cost-to-customer increases of Ontario’s Long-Term Energy Plan – projected at 3.5% per ye...
Energy poverty <ul><li>Rising utility costs have a disproportionate impact on low-income consumers  </li></ul><ul><li>Erod...
Low-income energy burden <ul><li>Energy burden refers to the amount of household income spent on energy </li></ul><ul><li>...
Understanding Home Energy Burdens <ul><li>Home energy burden = </li></ul><ul><li>Home energy bill / Household income </li>...
LIEN’s approach to low-income energy conservation & assistance
Customer Service rules for low-income consumers <ul><li>LIEN supports terms and conditions for utility service (e.g. consu...
Emergency financial assistance for low-income consumers <ul><li>Economic reality for low-income people -  face  insecure w...
Going forward   <ul><ul><ul><li>Monitoring and evaluating the progress on the implementation and delivery of low-income cu...
LIEN’s current work <ul><ul><ul><li>While LIEN continues to be involved in the development of low-income energy programs i...
Contact information <ul><ul><li>Website:  www.lowincomeenergy.ca </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Email:  [email_address] </li><...
Low-Income Energy Assistance Program (LEAP) f or Social Service Agencies
What is LEAP? <ul><li>LEAP   is a grant program intended to provide  emergency relief  to eligible low-income consumers wh...
LEAP Manual <ul><li>LEAP  Manual guides program implementation to ensure consistent delivery throughout Ontario </li></ul>...
LEAP Funding <ul><li>LEAP  is funded by all utility ratepayers through the distribution rates of each utility  </li></ul><...
Intake Agencies <ul><li>Responsible for: </li></ul><ul><li>Screening applicants for eligibility </li></ul><ul><li>Processi...
Lead Agencies <ul><li>Responsible for: </li></ul><ul><li>Selecting or contracting with Intake Agencies </li></ul><ul><li>M...
Eligibility Criteria <ul><li>To qualify, applicants must: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Be an existing customer of the utility pro...
Screening Guidelines <ul><ul><li>Future Sustainability </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>The grant will maintain or reconnect ene...
Agency Discretion <ul><li>If  the applicant does  not  meet the income threshold or screening guidelines </li></ul><ul><li...
Grant Level  <ul><li>Maximum  of  $500  per fuel, per household, per year  </li></ul><ul><li>  ~ $600  for electrically he...
What if an applicant owes more than the maximum? <ul><li>Options </li></ul><ul><li>Enter into a payment arrangement with t...
Application Process <ul><li>Pre-screen applicants over the phone  prior  to booking an in-person interview </li></ul><ul><...
In-Person Interview  <ul><ul><li>All adults living in the household should attend the interview </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li...
Application Process  <ul><li>Current energy bills for their residence </li></ul>2.  Notice of Service Disconnection  (if a...
Utility Verification  <ul><ul><li>Information to be Confirmed  </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Amount owing on the account </li...
Recommendation about Funding <ul><li>Recommendations should address  </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Whether or not to approve the a...
Notifying the Applicant  <ul><li>Applicants should be  notified  as soon as possible whether or not their application has ...
Appeals / Request for Internal Review <ul><li>Applicants may  request  an Internal Review if they disagree with the denial...
Grant Payments  <ul><li>Grants are issued by the agency   on behalf  of the applicant to the utility </li></ul><ul><ul><li...
Customer Service Rules  for Low-Income Consumers
Customer Services Rules for Low-Income Consumers <ul><li>If an applicant  qualifies  for  LEAP  emergency financial assist...
Disconnection Period <ul><li>The applicant must be granted a disconnection  suspension  for  21  days, after their utility...
Security Deposits Waivers and Refunds <ul><li>If the utility  requests  a security deposit, the  applicant may request a  ...
Service Charges & Late Payment Charges <ul><li>Outstanding services charges are to be  waived  related to: </li></ul><ul><...
Equal Payment Plan Options <ul><li>If the applicant’s utility bills  monthly </li></ul><ul><li>If the applicant’s utility ...
Repayment Time Periods The  time periods  to repay the amount due under low-income arrears agreements have been  extended ...
Under-Billing Adjustments <ul><li>When a  billing error  has occurred and the applicant owes the utility for an underpayme...
Payment Defaults <ul><li>Low-income customers must be allowed  2 payment defaults  before a low-income arrears agreement c...
Second or Further Arrears Payment Agreements <ul><li>If a low-income customer  successfully  completes an arrears payment ...
Have more questions? OEB Customer Relations Centre  Open Monday to Friday, 8:30 a.m. until 5 p.m. 1-877-632-2727 (toll fre...
OEB Complaints and Compliance / Enforcement Processes
What is the OEB?  <ul><li>The Ontario Energy Board is the regulator of the province’s electricity and natural gas sectors ...
What does the OEB do?  <ul><li>Establish rules, codes and guidelines for energy companies and enforce them </li></ul><ul><...
What we don’t do … <ul><li>We do  not  regulate prices offered by electricity retailers and natural gas marketers </li></u...
The OEB & Energy Consumers <ul><li>Consumer Relations staff: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Provide information to consumers on the...
Types of Consumer Contacts <ul><li>Enquiries </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Requests for information or clarification about the ene...
Consumer Contacts Consumer Contacts Received
Top 10 Consumer Issues Raised (April to June 2011) Marketer / Retailer Utility No Copy of Contract 1 Billing Cancellation ...
If you have a complaint … <ul><li>Step 1: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Try to resolve your complaint with your utility, natural g...
If you have a complaint … <ul><li>Step 2:  </li></ul><ul><li>File a complaint </li></ul><ul><ul><li>We will forward your c...
If you have a complaint … <ul><li>Step 3:  </li></ul><ul><li>Escalate   </li></ul><ul><ul><li>You may ask our Consumer  Re...
The Compliance Process  <ul><li>The objectives of the Board’s compliance policy are to:   </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Ensure lic...
The Compliance Process (continued) <ul><li>Step 1 – Information Gathering </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Identify issues and allega...
The Enforcement Process  <ul><li>Where Board staff identify a systemic or egregious breach of a licensee’s legal or regula...
This webinar was brought to you by  Your Legal Rights: A website of legal information for people in Ontario For more infor...
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LEAP Emergency Financial Assistance, Customer Service, Compliance and Enforcement

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This webinar is Part I of a two-part series from the Low Income Energy Network (LIEN) on the Ontario Energy Board's (OEB) Low-Income Energy Assistance Program (LEAP). It reviews LIEN's energy poverty strategy and looks at LEAP emergency financial assistance, more flexible customer service rules, and compliance and enforcement issues. The webinar includes presentations by OEB and LIEN staff.

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  • LIEN is widely recognized as the primary go-to organization with expertise on low-income energy issues. LIEN was formed in 2004 and is a network of anti-poverty, affordable housing, environmental and social justice groups. We have over 80 member organizations . 9 steering committee member organizations (diversified; representation from communities across the province): A Place Called Home (APCH) Advocacy Centre for Tenants Ontario (ACTO) Canadian Environmental Law Association (CELA) Centretown Citizens Ottawa Corporation Income Security Advocacy Centre (ISAC) Toronto Environmental Alliance (TEA) Sisters of Providence of St. Vincent de Paul Salvation Army Centre of Hope Social Development Council of Cornwall and Area Our aim is to ensure that low-income consumers have optimal access to energy conservation and assistance programs and to build local community capacity to reduce energy poverty. We seek to address and raise awareness of energy poverty through: outreach to community groups; outreach to the public, e.g. through the media; participating in OEB hearings and legislative processes; LIEN is a recognized as intervenor at the OEB, participating in hearings and proceedings regarding the electricity and gas sectors on behalf of low-income consumers. working with policy-makers and local utilities to develop workable solutions.
  • Over next 20 years, Ontario’s conservation targets and initiatives are projected to save about $27 billion in ratepayer costs on the basis of a $12 billion investment. Residential sector is to contribute 30 per cent of the conservation targets. June 18, 2007 – Ontario’s GHG emission targets, part of climate change plan The targets for the next steps in the McGuinty government&apos;s climate change plan are: A reduction of greenhouse gases to six per cent below 1990 levels by 2014, or 61 megatonnes. A reduction of greenhouse gases to 15 per cent below 1990 levels by 2020, or 99 megatonnes. A reduction of greenhouse gases to 80 per cent below 1990 levels by 2050. Ontario Liberal’s comprehensive poverty reduction strategy – to reduce children living in poverty by 25 per cent over five years (2008-2013)
  • The Debt Retirement Charge (DRC) is intended to help pay down the legacy debt of the former Ontario Hydro. Although the debt was acquired in the past, the facilities that were financed by the debt are still in use and continue to supply electricity to customers today. For this reason, today&apos;s customers contribute to paying down the debt through the DRC. November 18, 2010 : Minister of Energy announces Ontario Clean Energy Benefit (OCEB), which will provide a 10% benefit to consumers t o ease the impact of rising electricity costs. This rebate took effect with electricity consumed January 1, 2011 and will end on December 31, 2015. Many electricity distributors will pay consumers a lump sum on their first bill with the Ontario Clean Energy Benefit to cover the rebate credit calculated back to January 1, 2011. At this point, the province has stated that this rebate will apply to eligible residential, seasonal, farm and small business that consume less than 50 kW. The government has not provided details regarding a further breakdown of each eligible group or if there are any restrictions. For more information, go to the Ministry of Energy’s website Northern Ontario Energy Credit This is a new refundable tax credit for low- to middle-income families and individuals living in northern Ontario, effective for 2010 and later years. The maximum annual credit for a single person is $130, and for a family (including single parents), $200. These credits are reduced when a single person&apos;s income exceeds $35,000 and a family&apos;s income exceeds $45,000, and are completely eliminated when a single person&apos;s income exceeds $48,000 and a family&apos;s income exceeds $65,000.
  • Rising energy costs have an impact on all Ontarians, but low-income households are hit hardest. “ Energy poverty” is the disproportionate burden of electricity, natural gas and other utility costs on low-income households which reduce the funds available for food, clothing, medicine and other basic necessities. Inability to pay utilities is second only to inability to pay rent as a reason for homelessness.
  • According to Roger’s report for LIEN on a ratepayer-funded Ontario Home Energy Affordability Program: The percentage of income burden that triggers significant payment-troubles ( e.g. , service disconnections) appears to be in the range of 10% to 12% of annual income.
  • Multi-pronged approach to promoting energy conservation and ensuring access to energy for low-income consumers Targeted low-income energy conservation and efficiency programs, at no-cost to recipients AND Extensive consumer education about energy conservation, and specific low-income consumer protection measures While we know that energy efficiency programs alone cannot solve the problem of affordability, they can make a significant contribution to reducing the energy burden. The greatest benefits will be achieved through the introduction of measures that achieve deep energy savings (such as the installation of energy efficient appliances, proper attic and wall insulation, and an efficient heating system). The base of the pyramid also includes conditions of service that will not penalize low-income energy consumers who are already struggling to pay for gas/electricity bills, i.e. security deposit exemptions, no late payment fees, fair arrears repayment programs. A permanent low-income rate assistance program Moving up to the middle, LIEN has also been advocating for a low-income rate assistance program which would ensure ongoing affordability of energy bills and serve to prevent energy crises rather than just react to them after they have occurred. Adequate emergency energy assistance to help households in short-term crisis Considering the reality of circumstances facing many people living with low-income (such as insecure work, fluctuating income, and short-term financial emergencies) it is important to note that even with a rate affordability program and an energy conservation and efficiency program, there will still be a need for a permanent, adequately funded, and accessible emergency energy fund.
  • We need to continue to build broad support for the implementation of measures that will reduce energy poverty in the province. LIEN has also realized the importance of building the capacity of other organizations to carry out some of LIEN’s work. As such, our focus over the past year has involved building the capacity of our network members (and others) to become &amp;quot;experts&amp;quot; or &amp;quot;resource people&amp;quot; on low-income energy issues in their communities. This is why we developed the energy poverty manual. It was developed with the assistance of the LIEN steering committee. We also elicited input and feedback from many social service agencies throughout the province through the LIEN annual conference, workshops and webinars. The manual includes numerous resources, such as: a backgrounder on energy poverty that outlines the problem a summary of existing low-income energy programs in the province examples of how to work locally to end energy poverty in your community tips for dealing with your local media conservation tips statistics The manual will be made available on the LIEN website. Please feel free to tailor, adapt, and customise it as you see fit.
  • LEAP is similar to the Winter Warmth program which many of you may already be familiar with or have experience delivering
  • Perform intake functions where there is no Intake Agency
  • Have a pre-tax household income at or below the Statistics Canada Low-Income Cut-Off (LICO) + 15% - Family size and community size are taken into consideration;
  • The money is given to applicants as a grant. They are not required to pay it back.
  • Emergency Energy Fund is a provincial gov’t program that provides funding for utility arrears , security deposits , and reconnection costs The max grant per household is the amount required by the utility to maintain or reconnect service Community Start-Up &amp; Maintenance Benefit is for applicants who are eligible for Ontario Works or the Ontario Disability Support Program Municipally administered. For utility arrears. Contact your local Ontario Works or Ontario Disability Support Program office These funds are also helpful where the maximum LEAP grant is not sufficient to cover the customer’s arrears
  • Applicants who are not current utility customers, or who do not meet the income criteria, are not eligible for LEAP. If the applicant is not eligible, they should be informed and provided with information on other sources
  • Telephone interviews are permitted in cases related to mobility or transportation issues, or when the geographic distance between the customer and the agency office is too great and would cause hardship to the customer Age, illness, disability, injury are other factors
  • Due to privacy concerns, utilities require that a signed Consent to Disclosure of Personal Information form be faxed before they can discuss customer and account information with caseworkers
  • Applicants must be able to maintain their energy costs after the grant has been made If the recommendation is to deny the application, it is important to document the reasons why the application is being denied. There is a section on the LEAP Application Form to record this information
  • New customer service rules for low-income consumers came into effect on October 1, 2011
  • Outstanding service charges related to: - Collection Disconnection Non-payment Load Control Devices Are to be waived when you enter into a low-income customer arrears agreement No further late payment charges may be imposed by your utility after entering into a low-income arrears agreement. However, your utility does not need to waive late payment charges owning at the start of the agreement
  • You must be allowed to access the payment plans any time of the year. You may join such plans even if you currently have arrears, provided you also agree to enter into an arrears agreement
  • But if the second request comes within 12 months, then your utility can decide to offer you the standard arrears agreement available to all residential customers
  • LEAP Emergency Financial Assistance, Customer Service, Compliance and Enforcement

    1. 1. To view this presentation as a webinar with sound visit Your Legal Rights www.yourlegalrights.on.ca/training Your Legal Rights is a web site of legal information for people in Ontario. It contains free, easy to understand legal information produced by hundreds of organizations across Ontario.
    2. 2. LOW-INCOME ENERGY NETWORK Webinar November 10, 2011 <ul><li>Agenda </li></ul><ul><li>Introduction: LIEN’s energy poverty strategy </li></ul><ul><li>OEB LEAP emergency financial assistance </li></ul><ul><li>Low-income customer service rules </li></ul><ul><li>OEB role in ensuring compliance & enforcement of new customer service rules </li></ul>
    3. 3. The content of this webinar is based on law that was current on the date the webinar was recorded. Your Legal Rights webinars contain general legal information. They are not intended to be used as legal advice for a specific legal problem. For more information on how to find a lawyer or to contact your local community legal clinic visit: www.yourlegalrights.on.ca/find-services Your Legal Rights is a project of CLEO and funded by the Law Foundation of Ontario. Please Note:
    4. 4. Barb De Ruyter is a strategic research and marketing professional who has twenty-five years of experience in the public, private and non-profit sectors. She has conducted countless focus groups for CBC, including programs which made it to air and those which did not. Since 2000, she has applied her skills to her passion, which is working with non-profit organizations including Green Communities Canada, the Canadian Housing and Renewal Association and the Canadian Executive Services Organization, assisting them to identify their needs and strategically fulfill their mandates. Your Legal Rights is a project of CLEO and funded by the Law Foundation of Ontario. About our facilitator… .
    5. 5. LOW-INCOME ENERGY NETWORK LIEN’s Energy Poverty Strategy LIEN webinar, November 10, 2011
    6. 6. About LIEN <ul><li>LIEN is a network of environmental, anti-poverty and affordable housing advocacy groups </li></ul><ul><li>We seek to raise awareness of, and propose effective, environmentally sustainable solutions to, energy poverty by: </li></ul><ul><li>Working with organizations and serving as a resource </li></ul><ul><li>Advising government, OEB, OPA, and utilities on the need for policies and programs that will protect low-income energy consumers </li></ul><ul><li>Educating organizations, government and the general public about the need for specifically designed programs for low-income consumers through workshops, meetings, the website and the media </li></ul><ul><li>Compiling information on available energy assistance and energy conservation programs for low-income consumers </li></ul>
    7. 7. Energy poverty strategy – context <ul><li>Environmental, social and economic… </li></ul><ul><li>Ontario’s long term energy plan: conservation target is 7,100 MW by 2030 and reduction in overall demand by 28 TWh </li></ul><ul><li>Ontario’s climate change plan (coal phase-out by 2014) </li></ul><ul><li>Ontario’s long-term affordable housing strategy </li></ul><ul><li>Ontario’s poverty reduction strategy, with firm targets to measure progress </li></ul>
    8. 8. Rising energy prices <ul><li>Real cost-to-customer increases of Ontario’s Long-Term Energy Plan – projected at 3.5% per year over 20 years </li></ul><ul><li>BUT, 7.9% per year increases over next five years (Ontario Clean Energy Benefit takes 10% off electricity bills over next 5 years) </li></ul><ul><li>Natural gas and oil prices have been volatile over the past decade </li></ul><ul><li>HST adds 8% to energy bills; consumers also paying for smart meter initiative and Green Energy fee </li></ul>
    9. 9. Energy poverty <ul><li>Rising utility costs have a disproportionate impact on low-income consumers </li></ul><ul><li>Erodes housing affordability and ability to pay for other daily necessities such as food, clothing, medicine and transportation </li></ul>
    10. 10. Low-income energy burden <ul><li>Energy burden refers to the amount of household income spent on energy </li></ul><ul><li>U.K. fuel-poor household defined as spending more than 10% of income </li></ul><ul><li>LIEN’s position is that 6% is an affordable burde n </li></ul>
    11. 11. Understanding Home Energy Burdens <ul><li>Home energy burden = </li></ul><ul><li>Home energy bill / Household income </li></ul><ul><li>Total shelter burdens affordable at 30% of income. </li></ul><ul><li>Utility costs should be no more than 20% of shelter costs. </li></ul><ul><li>Utility costs affordable at 6% of income. </li></ul><ul><li>(20% x 30% = 6%). </li></ul>
    12. 12. LIEN’s approach to low-income energy conservation & assistance
    13. 13. Customer Service rules for low-income consumers <ul><li>LIEN supports terms and conditions for utility service (e.g. consumer security deposit requirements, payment time-lines and plans, disconnection and reconnection policies, termination moratoria) that are in the best interests of low-income consumers, and: </li></ul><ul><li>will not add to the service costs and penalize low-income consumers who are experiencing payment difficulties, </li></ul><ul><li>will assist low-income consumers in accessing and maintaining essential utility service. </li></ul>
    14. 14. Emergency financial assistance for low-income consumers <ul><li>Economic reality for low-income people - face insecure work, fluctuating income, inadequate social assistance rates, and short-term financial emergencies </li></ul><ul><li>a permanent low-income rate assistance program would ensure ongoing affordability of energy bills and serve to prevent payment crises </li></ul><ul><li>even with a rate affordability program and an energy conservation and efficiency program, there will still be a need for a permanent, adequately funded, and accessible emergency energy fund </li></ul>
    15. 15. Going forward <ul><ul><ul><li>Monitoring and evaluating the progress on the implementation and delivery of low-income customer service rules, financial assistance, and energy conservation programs </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li> Dependent on the transparency and distribution of the information collected by the delivery agents </li></ul></ul></ul>
    16. 16. LIEN’s current work <ul><ul><ul><li>While LIEN continues to be involved in the development of low-income energy programs in Ontario, it is now focusing on building the capacity of its network members and other organizations to become “experts” or “resource people” on low-income energy issues in their communities. </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>To facilitate this, LIEN has developed an Energy Poverty Manual/Toolkit and is in the process of fine-tuning it </li></ul></ul></ul>
    17. 17. Contact information <ul><ul><li>Website: www.lowincomeenergy.ca </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Email: [email_address] </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Phone: 416-597-5855 x. 5167 </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Toll-free (Ontario): 1-866-245-4182 ext. 5167 </li></ul></ul>
    18. 18. Low-Income Energy Assistance Program (LEAP) f or Social Service Agencies
    19. 19. What is LEAP? <ul><li>LEAP is a grant program intended to provide emergency relief to eligible low-income consumers who may be experiencing difficultly paying their bill </li></ul><ul><li>It is not intended to provide regular or ongoing bill payment assistance </li></ul>
    20. 20. LEAP Manual <ul><li>LEAP Manual guides program implementation to ensure consistent delivery throughout Ontario </li></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Defines eligibility criteria </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Outlines roles of service agencies </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Establishes the application process </li></ul></ul></ul>To accom m odate unique local needs some aspects have been left to your discretion
    21. 21. LEAP Funding <ul><li>LEAP is funded by all utility ratepayers through the distribution rates of each utility </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Funds provided by a utility must be used only for that utility’s customers </li></ul></ul>LEAP is also available to eligible low-income customers of sub-metering providers
    22. 22. Intake Agencies <ul><li>Responsible for: </li></ul><ul><li>Screening applicants for eligibility </li></ul><ul><li>Processing applications and collecting information </li></ul><ul><li>Informing the utility that assessment of eligibility is being undertaken </li></ul><ul><li>Communicating with the applicant regarding approved or denied applications </li></ul><ul><li>Tracking information </li></ul>
    23. 23. Lead Agencies <ul><li>Responsible for: </li></ul><ul><li>Selecting or contracting with Intake Agencies </li></ul><ul><li>Making final decisions to approve or deny applications </li></ul><ul><li>Receiving program funds from the utility </li></ul><ul><li>Remitting payment back to the utility </li></ul><ul><li>Implementing an appeals/internal review process </li></ul>
    24. 24. Eligibility Criteria <ul><li>To qualify, applicants must: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Be an existing customer of the utility providing the funding; </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Reside at the address where there are arrears; and </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Have a pre-tax household income at or below the Statistics Canada LICO + 15%; </li></ul></ul>
    25. 25. Screening Guidelines <ul><ul><li>Future Sustainability </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>The grant will maintain or reconnect energy service </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Past Payment Performance </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Applicant has demonstrated a prior attempt to pay </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Emergency Assistance </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Applicant is in arrears but has not been disconnected </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Funding </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Accessed only once per year </li></ul></ul>Need to balance emergency assistance with early intervention
    26. 26. Agency Discretion <ul><li>If the applicant does not meet the income threshold or screening guidelines </li></ul><ul><li>You should have documented rationale for approving the applicant </li></ul>Agencies may exercise discretion in exceptional circumstances
    27. 27. Grant Level <ul><li>Maximum of $500 per fuel, per household, per year </li></ul><ul><li> ~ $600 for electrically heated homes </li></ul><ul><li>If the applicant owes less than the maximum </li></ul><ul><li>If the applicant owes more than the maximum </li></ul>T he grant cannot exceed the amount owed The maximum grant may be provided, if energy service can be sustained
    28. 28. What if an applicant owes more than the maximum? <ul><li>Options </li></ul><ul><li>Enter into a payment arrangement with the utility for the balancing owing </li></ul><ul><li>Supplementary Assistance through other funds for the balance </li></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Emergency Energy Fund </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Community Start-Up & Maintenance Benefit </li></ul></ul></ul>
    29. 29. Application Process <ul><li>Pre-screen applicants over the phone prior to booking an in-person interview </li></ul><ul><ul><li>5 Questions </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Are you a customer of a natural gas or electricity utility? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Do you reside at the address with arrears? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>What is your yearly/monthly pre-tax household income? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>What are your sources of household income? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>How many people are in your household? </li></ul></ul>
    30. 30. In-Person Interview <ul><ul><li>All adults living in the household should attend the interview </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>You must obtain the applicant’s consent for the release of personal information </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>The applicant must complete a LEAP application form </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Telephone interviews are permitted in some situations </li></ul></ul>
    31. 31. Application Process <ul><li>Current energy bills for their residence </li></ul>2. Notice of Service Disconnection (if applicable) 3. 2 pieces of I.D. for main applicant (1 for others) The applicant must provide the following documents 4. Rental receipt, lease or mortgage documents 5. Proof of household income (i.e. pay stub, tax return) 6. Bank statement from the most recent month
    32. 32. Utility Verification <ul><ul><li>Information to be Confirmed </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Amount owing on the account </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Whether a disconnection notice has been issued </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Payments made on the account </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Discussion the applicant has had with the utility </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Advise the utility that you are assessing the applicant’s eligibility for LEAP </li></ul></ul>A customer has 10 days from the day a notice is received to pay their bill to avoid disconnection
    33. 33. Recommendation about Funding <ul><li>Recommendations should address </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Whether or not to approve the application </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Amount of the grant to be provided </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Key Considerations </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Will the disconnection be halted? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Will the applicant be able to pay their bills in the future? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>REMEMBER to document the reasons why an application was denied </li></ul></ul>LEAP is NOT intended to provide long-term financial assistance
    34. 34. Notifying the Applicant <ul><li>Applicants should be notified as soon as possible whether or not their application has been approved </li></ul><ul><li>If the application is approved </li></ul><ul><li>If the application has been denied </li></ul>Payment should be reflected on the applicant’s account within a reasonable amount of time Assist the applicant in making other payment arrangements a nd Inform them of the appeals process
    35. 35. Appeals / Request for Internal Review <ul><li>Applicants may request an Internal Review if they disagree with the denial of their application </li></ul><ul><li>An Internal Review Form should be provided to any applicant who requests one </li></ul>Requests must be made within 10 days of being notified of the denial
    36. 36. Grant Payments <ul><li>Grants are issued by the agency on behalf of the applicant to the utility </li></ul><ul><ul><li>The payment is NEVER issued directly to the applicant </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>It may take up to 2 weeks for the payment to be processed </li></ul></ul>
    37. 37. Customer Service Rules for Low-Income Consumers
    38. 38. Customer Services Rules for Low-Income Consumers <ul><li>If an applicant qualifies for LEAP emergency financial assistance, they automatically qualify for ALL low-income customer service rules </li></ul>The applicant must contact their utility to access low-income customer service rules
    39. 39. Disconnection Period <ul><li>The applicant must be granted a disconnection suspension for 21 days, after their utility is notified that they are being assessed for LEAP emergency financial assistance </li></ul>
    40. 40. Security Deposits Waivers and Refunds <ul><li>If the utility requests a security deposit, the applicant may request a waiver </li></ul>If the applicant previously paid the utility a security deposit, they may ask for it to be returned , after they’ve paid any outstanding arrears
    41. 41. Service Charges & Late Payment Charges <ul><li>Outstanding services charges are to be waived related to: </li></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Collection </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Disconnection </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Non-payment </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Load control devices </li></ul></ul></ul>No further late payment charges may be imposed by a utility after entering into a low-income arrears agreement
    42. 42. Equal Payment Plan Options <ul><li>If the applicant’s utility bills monthly </li></ul><ul><li>If the applicant’s utility bills bi-monthly </li></ul>They may request an equalized billing plan without enrolling in an automatic withdrawal payment plan They must be offered either a monthly or bi-monthly equal billing option
    43. 43. Repayment Time Periods The time periods to repay the amount due under low-income arrears agreements have been extended Amount in Arrears Repayment Time Period If < 2x avg. monthly bill is owing 8 months If 2 - 5x avg. monthly bill is owing 12 months If > 5x avg. monthly bill is owing 16 months
    44. 44. Under-Billing Adjustments <ul><li>When a billing error has occurred and the applicant owes the utility for an underpayment </li></ul><ul><li>Based on the amount of the error and the period during which the error occurred </li></ul>The applicant may elect an extended repayment period (from 10 to 24 months)
    45. 45. Payment Defaults <ul><li>Low-income customers must be allowed 2 payment defaults before a low-income arrears agreement can be cancelled </li></ul>The defaults must occur over at least 2 months
    46. 46. Second or Further Arrears Payment Agreements <ul><li>If a low-income customer successfully completes an arrears payment agreement, they can request a new arrears agreement anytime they need it thereafter </li></ul>
    47. 47. Have more questions? OEB Customer Relations Centre Open Monday to Friday, 8:30 a.m. until 5 p.m. 1-877-632-2727 (toll free within Ontario) [email_address] OR contact me directly Lenore Dougan Policy Advisor, Regulatory Policy 1-888-632-6273 x 141 [email_address]
    48. 48. OEB Complaints and Compliance / Enforcement Processes
    49. 49. What is the OEB? <ul><li>The Ontario Energy Board is the regulator of the province’s electricity and natural gas sectors </li></ul>
    50. 50. What does the OEB do? <ul><li>Establish rules, codes and guidelines for energy companies and enforce them </li></ul><ul><li>License energy companies, like electricity utilities, electricity retailers and gas marketers who sell to low-volume consumers </li></ul>Set the rates you are charged for electricity & natural gas supply and delivery by utilities Work with energy companies and consumers to help resolve complaints
    51. 51. What we don’t do … <ul><li>We do not regulate prices offered by electricity retailers and natural gas marketers </li></ul><ul><li>We cannot force a company to resolve a consumer complaint where there has been no violation of any legal or regulatory requirement </li></ul>We do not regulate water heater rentals or heating protection plans We do not set the rates for the Debt Retirement Charge or Global Adjustment We do not s et government energy policy
    52. 52. The OEB & Energy Consumers <ul><li>Consumer Relations staff: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Provide information to consumers on the role and responsibilities of the Board, the energy sector, market participants and the complaint process </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Log general enquiries and consumer concerns </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Record complaints related to specific market participants </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Escalate complaints for further investigation and/or enforcement action </li></ul></ul>
    53. 53. Types of Consumer Contacts <ul><li>Enquiries </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Requests for information or clarification about the energy sector </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Concerns </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Expressions of dissatisfaction with an aspect of the energy sector (e.g. do not like door-to-door sales) </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Complaints </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Allegations of non-compliance with a regulatory code or guideline against a specific licensee </li></ul></ul>
    54. 54. Consumer Contacts Consumer Contacts Received
    55. 55. Top 10 Consumer Issues Raised (April to June 2011) Marketer / Retailer Utility No Copy of Contract 1 Billing Cancellation Charges 2 Smart Meters / Time of Use (TOU) Prices Contract Renewal 3 Meters General Contract Issues 4 Utility Service Quality Reaffirmation 5 Rate Issues Cancellation Request Not Processed 6 Disconnection / Reconnection Disputed Signature 7 OEB Bill Insert Misrepresentation of Price 8 Security Deposits Misrepresentation of Identity 9 Current Electricity Rates Signed by Unauthorized Person 10 Disconnection Notice
    56. 56. If you have a complaint … <ul><li>Step 1: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Try to resolve your complaint with your utility, natural gas marketer or electricity retailer </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Keep a detailed account of the problem you're having, including </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Copies of all relevant documentation </li></ul></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Dates, names of people you've spoken to </li></ul></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Details about the situation or a particular event </li></ul></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><li>such as salesperson's name and ID number, what they said, what documents you were given, etc. </li></ul></ul></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Meter readings and the dates they were taken </li></ul></ul></ul></ul>
    57. 57. If you have a complaint … <ul><li>Step 2: </li></ul><ul><li>File a complaint </li></ul><ul><ul><li>We will forward your complaint to the company for response </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>You should receive a response within 21 days </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>If you are not satisfied with the response …. </li></ul></ul></ul>
    58. 58. If you have a complaint … <ul><li>Step 3: </li></ul><ul><li>Escalate </li></ul><ul><ul><li>You may ask our Consumer Relations Centre to escalate the matter </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>We will advise you of our findings </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>If no legal or regulatory breaches have been found, we may not be able to take any further action </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>If it appears that non-compliance may have occurred, resolution may include a requirement for corrective measures to be undertaken for the consumer </li></ul></ul></ul>
    59. 59. The Compliance Process <ul><li>The objectives of the Board’s compliance policy are to: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Ensure licensees comply with their legal and regulatory obligations </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Work cooperatively with Licensees to achieve a culture of compliance </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Provide interpretive guidance to licensees to assist them in complying with requirements </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Identify potential policy issues / gaps </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Act in a fair, transparent and efficient manner </li></ul></ul>
    60. 60. The Compliance Process (continued) <ul><li>Step 1 – Information Gathering </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Identify issues and allegations </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Step 2 – Initial Review </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Identify any evidence of possible non-compliance </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Step 3 – Review and Assessment </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Staff notifies licensees of details of allegation and provides opportunity for licensee response </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Completes analysis of evidence and licensee response </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Works with parties to achieve a fair and appropriate resolution </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Licensee develops plan to voluntarily become compliant and staff monitor the plan </li></ul></ul>
    61. 61. The Enforcement Process <ul><li>Where Board staff identify a systemic or egregious breach of a licensee’s legal or regulatory obligations, staff may recommend the matter be referred to the Board for enforcement action. </li></ul><ul><li>Enforcement action may include: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>an order for the licensee to become compliant; </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>suspension or revocation of licence; and/or, </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>an administrative penalty. </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Where the Board has provided a licensee with notice of it’s intent to proceed with enforcement action, the licensee has 15 days to notify the Board whether it wishes to proceed to a hearing. </li></ul><ul><li>A person who has requested a hearing has the right to appear at the hearing before the Board, make submissions, cross-examine witnesses, and present evidence. </li></ul>
    62. 62. This webinar was brought to you by Your Legal Rights: A website of legal information for people in Ontario For more information visit the Consumer Law section of Your Legal Rights at www.yourlegalrights.on.ca For more public legal information webinars visit: www.yourlegalrights.on.ca/training

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