Monday, April 12, 2021

Responsibility for damage caused by storms

by TERRI DICKERSON/ CDA Press Consumer Gal
| April 8, 2021 1:00 AM

After the severe wind storm in January, a number of people suffered damage to furnaces, pumps and other equipment due to possible energy surges when the power went out. This has left customers wondering if Avista is monetarily responsible for the damage.

Avista is governed by a specific set of rules and the company is regulated by the Washington, Oregon and Idaho public utilities commissions since the company’s service territory encompasses part of these three states.

Within these rules is an outline for how the company handles a force majeure event. The Jan. 13 windstorm constituted such an event.

The company can declare a force majeure event in the following instances: any acts of God; strikes, lockouts, or other industrial disturbances; civil disturbances, arrests and restraints of rulers of people.

The provision goes on to state that acts of the public enemy, wars, riots, blackout, insurrections and epidemics are also included, just to name a few. In other words, any act that is not due to negligence or wrongdoing on the part of the company is covered, which means the company is unlikely to have to pay for damage sustained by customers.

So while Avista acknowledges that the outages suffered in the January wind storm were inconvenient, they also point out that many losses suffered were not due to negligence in the operation or maintenance of Avista Utilities service facilities or on improper work and/or actions, but instead was the result of a weather event.

Under these circumstances, and in light of the rules and regulations governing Avista’s service, Avista isn’t likely to compensate customers for their loss. So many customers were left to consider other options including seeking compensation from their homeowners' insurance.

If you believe your loss should be considered by Avista, you can contact an Avista Utilities Claims Specialist to review your case.

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Problems getting pet to vet?

An area of life changed by the pandemic is pet ownership, as many reportedly added pets to their households. However, this led to an unforeseen consequence that a reader learned about recently and shared his story.

One Saturday a Post Falls reader noticed a lump on the side of his dog’s face. Since it developed quickly he wanted to get his dog seen as soon as possible but his regular vet was not open on weekends.

After calling other local veterinary clinics he discovered the “new normal” that getting your pet in to be seen has become quite challenging due to the demand for veterinarians' time from all the new pet owners.

One facility offered the reader a drop-off appointment several days out while another facility said their first opening was in 10 days.

I heard similar stories from a neighbor last summer that all of the veterinary clinics they called were weeks out on scheduling wellness appointments. A veterinarian I spoke to about the delays also mentioned the problem has been worsened by the overall population growth in the area.

The best approach to avoid lengthy appointment waits is to maintain a relationship with a specific practice, as you may get in sooner in the case of an unforeseen event.

Worst case, if you do have something unexpected and your regular veterinarian cannot see your pet promptly, take your pet to an emergency clinic as there is one in Post Falls and one in CDA. These clinics generally operate evenings, overnight and on weekends and may charge more.

Pets provide many intangible benefits, but providing them the care they need has become a bit more challenging.

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Insecure with social media

Many of us would be surprised to find out the amount of information available about us on the internet. It was recently revealed that 500 million Facebook users' information has been found available on a website for hackers.

Even though the information appears to be several years old, it still can give a glimpse into the amount of information about us collected by Facebook and others on social media sites and just how insecure this information appears to be.

The information reportedly includes phone numbers, Facebook IDs, full names, locations, birth dates and email addresses. Facebook came under fire in 2018 when Cambridge Analytica was able to access information via phone numbers on up to 87 million Facebook users without their consent, much less their knowledge.

Then in 2019, a Ukrainian security researcher reported that it had found personal information on 267 million Facebook users, mostly from the U.S.

According to Facebook, the data is old and had previously been reported. But where does that leave consumers? As long as we wish to be on Facebook and other social media platforms, we are at risk of our personal information being compromised.

Though the personal data may have been declared old, many of us probably still have the same name, phone number, birthdate and email address. So when setting up passwords on banking, securities and other sensitive accounts, consider using user names and passwords that do not include any of the information that is so readily available on a hacker’s website for sale.

If the only thing protecting us from being hacked is a user name and password, we might not want to use our personal information that is floating around on the internet to protect our accounts.

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Remember: I’m on your side.

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If you have encountered a consumer issue that you have questions about or think our readers should know about, please send me an email at or call me at 208-274-4458. As The CDA Press Consumer Gal, I’m here to help. I’m a copywriter working with businesses on marketing strategy, a columnist, a veterans advocate and a consumer advocate living in Coeur d’Alene.