The Ontario Energy Board (OEB) has ordered Enbridge Gas Distribution to either find a way to provide "nondiscriminatory access to the utility bill" for the HVAC industry or to remove Direct Energy from the bill by Jan. 1, 2007.

There has been some debate around the authority of the OEB to "make an order or grant remedies concerning billing arrangements related to non-commodity services and products (e.g., HVAC products and services)." Direct Energy argued strongly that the Board did not have jurisdiction to make rulings in this area. "Enbridge must maintain and demonstrate effective control over its billing and any sharing which takes place on the bill it uses," said the OEB in rejecting the argument.

According to the OEB, the bill, although provided by contract with Enbridge affiliate CustomerWorks, "is essentially a utility bill... the value which others derive from sharing access to the bill is associated with sharing access with utility charges."

The OEB stopped short of ordering any immediate changes to the bill. They ordered, however, that as part of its 2007 rates case, "Enbridge must either come forward with a complete proposal regarding third party access or it must set out how it intends to ensure that its billing is separated from the billing of Direct Energy by no later than January 1, 2007." This requirement will not apply to current arrangements for gas marketers, who will continue to have access to the bill under the terms of the Gas Distribution Access Rule.

Publication date: 03/06/2006