Canada: The OEB's New Consumer Engagement Framework

On May 13, 2016, the Ontario Energy Board ("OEB" or the "Board") published details on its new Consumer Engagement Framework (the "Framework"), currently slated for implementation by 2018.

Currently, electrical distribution utilities are required to file evidence in their rebasing applications before the OEB of enhanced engagement with customers to provide improved alignment between the distributor's plans and customer needs and expectations. Under the OEB's current approach to adjudication, customer interests in rate proceedings are typically represented by intervenor groups that participate in almost all rate cases across the Province, with minimal local consumer involvement. Intervenors are funded by the applicant distributors, and in turn by customers, because application-related costs are usually incorporated in rates. Local customers are permitted to participate in the proceedings, but there is usually little local participation. Hearings are usually held at the OEB's offices in Toronto, and until very recently, there have been few sessions held in the service areas affected by the rate applications.

The Framework maintains these customer engagement obligations on utilities, and builds on them with the Board taking a more direct and active role to allow for greater involvement by consumers in the OEB's processes.

Background: Reviewing Consumer Participation in the OEB's Processes

In a recent presentation, OEB representatives discussed the OEB's review, conducted over the past several years, of consumer participation in the Board's processes:

  • In 2014, the OEB completed the first phase of its review. After examining its approach to intervenor status, cost eligibility and cost awards, the Board implemented several procedural and administrative changes to its existing intervenor funding process. This was aimed at increasing transparency and accountability.
  • From 2013-2016, the Board reviewed and revised its legal notices to ensure that they were presented using plain language, enhancing readability and understanding. The Board also piloted community meetings for larger rate hearings.
  • Most recently, in 2015-2016, the Board completed the third phase of its review, identifying and evaluating alternative models to the Board's current approach through a jurisdictional review. As part of this undertaking, the Board developed the Consumer Engagement Framework, which adopts best practices to ensure effective and transparent consumer engagement and representation in the OEB's processes.

Moving Forward: The New Consumer Engagement Framework

The final phase of this initiative is implementation of the Framework, described by the Board as "a suite of tools to give residential and small business customers information and access to OEB adjudicative processes".

The OEB has stated that the Framework will allow for greater involvement by consumers in the OEB's process. The Board has committed to hearing the views, concerns and questions of local, directly impacted consumers, and taking these concerns into account in deciding whether utility rates are just and reasonable.

According to the OEB, the Framework is not intended to be a replacement for the intervenor process or to overlap with utilities' existing customer engagement responsibilities. Rather, it is intended to increase consumer awareness and access to information and be complementary to the Board's existing tools.

The OEB suggests that it wishes to achieve the following "deliverables":

  • The OEB's regulatory process is easily understood by Ontario electricity and natural gas consumers;
  • Residential and small business consumers have access to and can meaningfully participate in OEB hearings;
  • The OEB has effective mechanisms to ensure the voice of the consumer is heard; and
  • OEB decisions consider the views of the consumers impacted.

The key aspects of the Framework include the following tools:

  1. Continued engagement by utilities with their customers before filing an application;
  2. Increasing consumer awareness through notification via multiple channels, including going beyond legal notice requirements (including OEB/utility websites, email, social media, direct mail and bills);
  3. An enhanced OEB website targeted at consumer education and involvement, to be available mid-2017;
  4. Publishing a plain-language, easy-to-use guide made up of a number of "quick tools", available in the fall of 2016;
  5. Issuing shorter, plain language notices to be posted on the OEB's and applicant's websites, personally served on anyone that is affected or is likely to be affected and published in newspaper(s) in the area most affected by the proposals in an application;
  6. Engaging "Process Counsel" starting in the fall of 2016 — a dedicated customer contact person at the OEB who:
    • Knows what applications have been filed with the OEB;
    • Knows how the OEB's decision making processes work;
    • Knows how consumers can get involved in the process; and
    • Can help reduce barriers faced by consumers who want to know how to effectively participate in an adjudicative process/hearing.
  7. Accepting letters of comment from consumers on applications;
  8. Holding Community Meetings which the OEB and the applicant would attend after an application is filed but before the hearing
    • These will be broadly advertised and held in an informal, "open house" format in the applicant's service area.
  9. Continuing the current intervention model
    • Directly impacted parties, or the associations and organizations that represent them, will continue to be able to intervene in the OEB's processes in accordance with its current Rules;
    • We note that it is unclear what the impact of the Framework will be on intervenors that represent broad, province-wide consumer interests, if those representatives fail to be engaged as regional consumer representatives (described below).
  10. Engaging Regional Consumer Representatives
    • Starting in 2017, the OEB will pilot the use of local community-based representatives to gather information from and advocate on behalf of local customers during hearings;
    • Representatives will be selected based on:
      • Experience in hearing advocacy;
      • Familiarity with regional/local energy issues;
      • Knowledge of energy matters; and
      • Community-based engagement and consultation skills.
    • Representatives will be expected to:
      • Coordinate and facilitate effective engagement with local residential and small business customers;
      • Record and report the views, comments, questions and positions of local consumers; and
      • Advocate for local customer interests as informed by those customers in the OEB's hearing process.
  11. Hearings in the Community
    • Starting in the fall of 2016, the OEB will begin holding larger hearings, in whole or in part, in local communities impacted by applications. It is felt that this approach will allow participation by local customers; make OEB processes more accessible, open and transparent; enhance consumer trust and confidence in the regulatory process; and enhance consumer understanding and awareness of the OEB, its rate setting and decision making processes.

The Framework will initially apply only to rate cases, eventually rolling-out to all OEB cases. The Board has committed to providing further opportunities for input throughout the implementation of the Framework.

Next Steps

The OEB has identified the following as its next steps in the implementation of the Framework:

  • Meeting with intervenors and utilities;
  • Consulting with the OEB-developed Consumer Panel;
  • Developing the pilot and implementation plan for Regional Consumer Representatives; and
  • Developing the content and roll-out plan for the enhanced consumer website.

For more information, visit the Ontario Energy Board Website.

If you have any questions, please contact one of the authors.

About BLG

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Similar Articles
Relevancy Powered by MondaqAI
In association with
Related Topics
Similar Articles
Relevancy Powered by MondaqAI
Related Articles
Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Registration (you must scroll down to set your data preferences)

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including your content preferences, for three primary purposes (full details of Mondaq’s use of your personal data can be found in our Privacy and Cookies Notice):

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting to show content ("Content") relevant to your interests.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, news alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our content providers ("Contributors") who contribute Content for free for your use.

Mondaq hopes that our registered users will support us in maintaining our free to view business model by consenting to our use of your personal data as described below.

Mondaq has a "free to view" business model. Our services are paid for by Contributors in exchange for Mondaq providing them with access to information about who accesses their content. Once personal data is transferred to our Contributors they become a data controller of this personal data. They use it to measure the response that their articles are receiving, as a form of market research. They may also use it to provide Mondaq users with information about their products and services.

Details of each Contributor to which your personal data will be transferred is clearly stated within the Content that you access. For full details of how this Contributor will use your personal data, you should review the Contributor’s own Privacy Notice.

Please indicate your preference below:

Yes, I am happy to support Mondaq in maintaining its free to view business model by agreeing to allow Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors whose Content I access
No, I do not want Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors

Also please let us know whether you are happy to receive communications promoting products and services offered by Mondaq:

Yes, I am happy to received promotional communications from Mondaq
No, please do not send me promotional communications from Mondaq
Terms & Conditions (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd (Mondaq). Mondaq grants you a non-exclusive, revocable licence to access the Website and associated services, such as the Mondaq News Alerts (Services), subject to and in consideration of your compliance with the following terms and conditions of use (Terms). Your use of the Website and/or Services constitutes your agreement to the Terms. Mondaq may terminate your use of the Website and Services if you are in breach of these Terms or if Mondaq decides to terminate the licence granted hereunder for any reason whatsoever.

Use of

To Use you must be: eighteen (18) years old or over; legally capable of entering into binding contracts; and not in any way prohibited by the applicable law to enter into these Terms in the jurisdiction which you are currently located.

You may use the Website as an unregistered user, however, you are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the Content or to receive the Services.

You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these Terms or with the prior written consent of Mondaq. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information from the Content. Nor shall you extract information about users or Contributors in order to offer them any services or products.

In your use of the Website and/or Services you shall: comply with all applicable laws, regulations, directives and legislations which apply to your Use of the Website and/or Services in whatever country you are physically located including without limitation any and all consumer law, export control laws and regulations; provide to us true, correct and accurate information and promptly inform us in the event that any information that you have provided to us changes or becomes inaccurate; notify Mondaq immediately of any circumstances where you have reason to believe that any Intellectual Property Rights or any other rights of any third party may have been infringed; co-operate with reasonable security or other checks or requests for information made by Mondaq from time to time; and at all times be fully liable for the breach of any of these Terms by a third party using your login details to access the Website and/or Services

however, you shall not: do anything likely to impair, interfere with or damage or cause harm or distress to any persons, or the network; do anything that will infringe any Intellectual Property Rights or other rights of Mondaq or any third party; or use the Website, Services and/or Content otherwise than in accordance with these Terms; use any trade marks or service marks of Mondaq or the Contributors, or do anything which may be seen to take unfair advantage of the reputation and goodwill of Mondaq or the Contributors, or the Website, Services and/or Content.

Mondaq reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to take any action that it deems necessary and appropriate in the event it considers that there is a breach or threatened breach of the Terms.

Mondaq’s Rights and Obligations

Unless otherwise expressly set out to the contrary, nothing in these Terms shall serve to transfer from Mondaq to you, any Intellectual Property Rights owned by and/or licensed to Mondaq and all rights, title and interest in and to such Intellectual Property Rights will remain exclusively with Mondaq and/or its licensors.

Mondaq shall use its reasonable endeavours to make the Website and Services available to you at all times, but we cannot guarantee an uninterrupted and fault free service.

Mondaq reserves the right to make changes to the services and/or the Website or part thereof, from time to time, and we may add, remove, modify and/or vary any elements of features and functionalities of the Website or the services.

Mondaq also reserves the right from time to time to monitor your Use of the Website and/or services.


The Content is general information only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice or seek to be the complete and comprehensive statement of the law, nor is it intended to address your specific requirements or provide advice on which reliance should be placed. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the Content for any purpose. All Content provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers hereby exclude and disclaim all representations, warranties or guarantees with regard to the Content, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. To the maximum extent permitted by law, Mondaq expressly excludes all representations, warranties, obligations, and liabilities arising out of or in connection with all Content. In no event shall Mondaq and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use of the Content or performance of Mondaq’s Services.


Mondaq may alter or amend these Terms by amending them on the Website. By continuing to Use the Services and/or the Website after such amendment, you will be deemed to have accepted any amendment to these Terms.

These Terms shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of England and Wales and you irrevocably submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales to settle any dispute which may arise out of or in connection with these Terms. If you live outside the United Kingdom, English law shall apply only to the extent that English law shall not deprive you of any legal protection accorded in accordance with the law of the place where you are habitually resident ("Local Law"). In the event English law deprives you of any legal protection which is accorded to you under Local Law, then these terms shall be governed by Local Law and any dispute or claim arising out of or in connection with these Terms shall be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts where you are habitually resident.

You may print and keep a copy of these Terms, which form the entire agreement between you and Mondaq and supersede any other communications or advertising in respect of the Service and/or the Website.

No delay in exercising or non-exercise by you and/or Mondaq of any of its rights under or in connection with these Terms shall operate as a waiver or release of each of your or Mondaq’s right. Rather, any such waiver or release must be specifically granted in writing signed by the party granting it.

If any part of these Terms is held unenforceable, that part shall be enforced to the maximum extent permissible so as to give effect to the intent of the parties, and the Terms shall continue in full force and effect.

Mondaq shall not incur any liability to you on account of any loss or damage resulting from any delay or failure to perform all or any part of these Terms if such delay or failure is caused, in whole or in part, by events, occurrences, or causes beyond the control of Mondaq. Such events, occurrences or causes will include, without limitation, acts of God, strikes, lockouts, server and network failure, riots, acts of war, earthquakes, fire and explosions.

By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions