Man plans class action against BC Hydro for smart meters
Published Saturday, July 14, 2012 1:41PM PDT
Last Updated Saturday, July 14, 2012 6:45PM PDT
A Vancouver Island man is gearing up for a David and Goliath battle against BC Hydro and its smart meter program by taking the first steps in a class action lawsuit.
Phillip Oldridge became outraged when he saw his hydro consumption triple after a smart meter was installed to measure his electricity use. He hired an electrician to check for problems in his home that would explain the hike and says none were found.
But the Crown corporation refused to clear up the problem.
"It's ridiculous. It didn't happen and they disagree. They said, ‘No, it did happen and you have to pay,’” Oldridge said.
Oldridge started talking with his neighbours to see if anyone else was in a similar situation.
"Literally everybody, at least along my street here and within my immediate neighbourhood, and now I'm finding out people from Vancouver suffer from the same problem,” he said.
Oldridge called a lawyer to start looking into a class action lawsuit and has set up a Facebook page with a petition for people to join the potential suit.
However, his Vancouver lawyer Herbert Rosner warns it won’t be a simple process.
"It's not just a matter of being signed on. The action has to be approved by the court, whether you can take the action or not,” Rosner said.
BC Hydro says the smart meters are accurate according to Measurement Canada.
"We've actually had about 62 meters go through that process to date and every single one of them has come back confirmed as accurate,” spokesperson Cindy Verschoor said.
The Crown corporation also says Oldridge’s usage is consistent and that only a tiny handful of complainants have legitimate concerns.
"We issue about 1.3 million bills a month and to date we've installed about 1.4 million smart meters. We investigate every single case...and to date we've adjusted six bills that were due to a smart meter malfunction,” Verschoor said.
Oldridge says he doesn’t believe what BC Hydro is telling him and is willing to take on the expense and hassle of standing up for what he thinks are thousands of potential claimants.
“At the end of the day, somebody’s got to step up to it and take it on. So if that means that I’m that guy, then I’m prepared to be that guy,” he said.
Longtime anti-smart meter campaigner Sharon Noble of the Coalition to Stop Smart Meters applauds the move.
"This is the only way we're going to stop the smart meter program, is through court action. And there have been so many people who have been asking me over the last few months to get a class action suit going,” she said.
Noble’s group plans to follow up on a human rights complaint and a BC Utilities Commission filing with a breach of privacy lawsuit.
"We have a right to live in our home free of intrusion, free of interference, free of harm on our health, our privacy, our security, and the smart meter program and its grid is breaching all these rights,” she said.
Class actions can take months or even years if they are approved to move forward.
With a report from CTV British Columbia’s Penny Daflos