To be fair to its customers, Hydro-Québec ensures that they each pay a reasonable amount for the services they receive. Disconnection for non-payment is a last resort. From December 1 to March 31, service is maintained or restored to customers whose homes are heated with electricity and who have failed to pay their bills.
Every year, thousands of low-income customers who have difficulty paying their bills benefit from special long-term payment arrangements. To respond adequately to the needs of low-income customers, Hydro-Québec has simplified the personalized arrangement process with a view to reaching more of these customers.
To facilitate business relations and the collection process with customers who do not have a good command of either English or French, Hydro-Québec deals with four non-profit organizations that provide translation services in 18 languages1 and guarantee that the information exchanged will remain strictly confidential.
1 Arabic, Armenian, Cantonese, Mandarin, Taiwanese, Taishanese (China), Haitian Creole and Seychelles Creole, Spanish, Lao, Cambodian, Urdu, Romanian, Russian, Sri Lankan Tamil, Vietnamese, Ukrainian and various African languages
While electricity is inexpensive in Québec, it still represents a significant outlay for some households. For this reason, we have worked with the low-income household and local associations working group to develop solutions to help these customers.
- The Equalized Payments Plan (EPP) was promoted among all residential customers.
- The Equalized Payments Plan is available to customers who anticipate payment difficulties.
- Promotional campaigns “Before you rent” and “Don’t let the situation get worse”
- Interventions with customers in the recovery process were faster and more frequent.
- Intermediaries (consumer associations and others) were encouraged to suggest to customers that they contact Hydro-Québec without delay to reach a payment arrangement.
- A new Web page presenting options in the event of payment difficulties was launched.
- 106,438 payment arrangements covering $483 million gross were reached with low-income customers; 46,974 of the agreements, amounting to $56 million, provide assistance with payment of arrears and, if necessary, partial payment for current electricity use.
- Pilot projects tested agreements tailored to the payment capacity of low-income customers. These initiatives included a more generous agreement and gradual cancellation of the debt.
- 126 employees attended the workshop on doing business in a context of poverty to learn about collecting from low-income customers who are having difficulty making payments. This workshop has been offered to our employees since 2003.
- We met with consumer associations and working groups to identify how best to support low-income clients experiencing payment difficulties. We have maintained close ties with these organizations for over 15 years.