Citizens for Safe Technology (CST) and B.C. Hydro’s commercial customers are taking expanded class action against B.C. Hydro, as they believe the Smart Meter program violates citizens’ civil rights. The exact court date is not yet settled, however, since the judge has yet to “certify the file.”
Sharon Noble, director of CST, said, “Our [new] class action is on behalf of the people who want [Smart Meters] removed, as well as analog owners who have been harassed and bullied.” According to Noble, commercial customers of B.C. Hydro have not been given the choice of opting out of Smart Meters. She said commercial customers who assert rights to opt out are participating in this expanded class action.
The previous class action, certified last July, addressed the additional cost of $35 that B.C. Hydro is asking of those who don’t have Smart Meters in their homes. “We believe that people have the right to live in their homes free and safe without paying for it,” said Noble.
Greg Reimer, B.C. Hydro’s executive vice president of Transmission and Distribution, said, “A small number of people have asked for a choice. We are offering eligible residential customers the option of keeping an old meter, taking a radio-off meter, or installing a Smart Meter. Commercial customers are not eligible for these choices, mainly because of the complexity of commercial rate structures.”
“[B.C. Hydro] began to harass and intimidate people who have analog meters by letters and telephone calls that are telling [people] to sign and send out new forms,” said Noble. She says the requested form shows whether customers are willing to pay additional costs with their analog meters or they will install Smart Meters. Noble believes that people are signing another contract by sending the forms back to B.C. Hydro. Noble said, “You are authorizing, recognizing, and legitimatizing B.C. Hydro’s rights [about Smart Meters].”
However, the judge has not yet certified this new, expanded class action. According to Reimer, “The B.C. Court of Appeal and the B.C. Utilities Commission have previously dismissed legal challenges related to the installation of Smart Meters.” Among three class actions that were brought up, the second was dismissed. He also noted “B.C. Hydro is acting at all times within the law, to ensure that our electricity system operates in a safe and reliable manner.”
“We are just starting, [and] I believe that person who started [the class action] has 20 or 30 businesses signed up so far,” said Noble. She says different kinds of commercial customers who are participating in this new class action include hotel owners, doctors, chiropractors, apartment units, dentists, and organic farm owners.
Noble also said, “Under the Utilities Commissions Act, we discovered that B.C. Hydro is violating [one] section which demonstrates that utility should not discriminate in race and treatment.” She explained further by saying that B.C. Hydro is discriminating against customers based on the installation of Smart Meters.
Jessica Klein, owner of Homestead Certified Organic Farm, believes that health issues are among the biggest concerns. “Studies that I trust show that emissions from [Smart Meters] are harmful,” she said. “We were never consulted democratically [about this matter]. We’ve been denied our democratic rights.” Klein says there are some people who are so sensitive to certain radio waves that they do not even have microwaves in their houses. “As organic farmers, we have chosen certain lifestyles, and we do not want [Smart Meters] to be forced upon us,” added Klein.
The World Health Organization has classified waves such as those from Smart Meters as a possible human carcinogen, but B.C. Hydro has said the B.C. Centre for Disease Control, the Provincial Health Officer, Health Canada, and the World Health Organization have confirmed no known health risks from Smart Meters.
“This third class action, we are hoping to roll that in with first one as well. So we have to wait and see if it becomes certified or not,” said Klein.
Noble views this matter positively, as she thinks the court must protect citizens’ Charter of Rights and Freedom. She said, “If we allow this precedent to be set, then what will stop them from doing more?”
Reimer added, “The legal action being organized is a separate matter, and we will continue to work through the judicial process.”