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Overall case movements (October 2018 to December 2018)
Compared to the July to October 2018 quarter, cases are down 13%.
Compared to this time last year, cases are less than one per cent down.
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Overall cases by industry (Oct-Dec 2018)
Oct-Dec 2017 Jan-Mar 2018 Apr-Jun 2018 Jul-Sep 2018 Oct-Dec 2018
463 453 508 495 412
2,592 3,508 2,987
4,924 5,755 5,530 5,727 5,012
8,523 8,873 8,690 9,789 8,503
Note: All quarterly totals include Dual Fuel and Other Industry cases. In the January to March 2018 quarter there were 11 Dual Fuel and 49 Other Industry cases.
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Top three issues by industry (Oct-Dec 2018)
- Billing 43%
- Credit 18%
- Provision 15%
- Other 24%
- Billing 52%
- Credit 21%
- Provision 11%
- Other 16%
- Billing 49%
- Credit 15%
- Land 15%
- Other 22%
In the October to December 2018 quarter, EWOV received 1,545 gas billing cases overall (natural gas and LPG) — down 8% against gas billing cases for the July to September 2018 quarter.
Continuing our watch on natural gas billing issues — over the last quarter, high bill cases fell 17%, billing error cases fell 17%, backbill cases were up 45%, and billing estimation cases were up 14%.
On issues watch: Wrongful disconnection of electricity and gas
A Wrongful Disconnection Payment (WDP) is payable if an energy retailer hasn’t complied with the terms and conditions of its contract with the customer, and the requirements of the Energy Retail Code, before
disconnecting electricity or gas supply. The payment is currently $500 a day (or part thereof), capped at $3,500 if the customer doesn’t make contact with the retailer within 14 days. Where a customer
complains about an actual disconnection, EWOV makes a separate assessment of whether a WDP is payable. Where the retailer and EWOV can’t agree on an outcome, we request a formal decision from
the Essential Services Commission.
In the October to December quarter, EWOV opened 162 WDP assessments.
90 (56%) were for electricity disconnection and 72 (44%) were for gas disconnection.
In the October to December quarter, EWOV finalised 268 WDP assessments.*
*Some of the WDP assessments finalised in the October to December quarter were opened in previous quarters.
149 (56%) were for electricity disconnection and 119 (44%) were for gas disconnection.
145 of finalised WDP assessments resulted in a payment. 61% of payments were under $1,000 and 39% were over $1,000. The largest was $50,915.79.
54% of finalised WDP assessments related to payment plans — either not offered or information not provided.
A further 6% related to multiple breaches, generally involving affordability issues and possibly also payment plans. 12% related to non-compliant notices, for example, the retailer didn’t adhere to the required timeframes, or didn’t issue the required notices.
There were also five WDP decisions from the Essential Services Commission (ESC).
Three were about payment plans (two payable; one not payable), one was about warning notice (not payable) and one was about resolving the customer’s complaint before disconnection (not payable).
These (and other) WDP decisions are on the ESC website.
On 1 January 2019, a new ‘Payment Difficulty Framework’ came into effect in Victoria.
This new regulatory framework introduces significant changes to energy retailer obligations and the process retailers must follow before disconnection of the electricity or gas of customers experiencing affordability issues. The type of assistance a customer must be offered is now based on how much the customer owes — whether the debt is under $55, or $55 or more. With payment plans the most common reason for WDPs in the October to December 2018 quarter, EWOV will be closely monitoring how retailers respond to their changed obligations under the new framework.
Case study 2: Wrongful disconnection payment - retailer’s WDP obligations stand, despite customer’s lack of engagement
History of payment plans and non-payment; customer drops out of EWOV’s Investigation process
Case number: 2018/26091 and WDP/2018/866
Mr R said his electricity was disconnected in mid-October 2018 without notice, and his electricity retailer wanted the arrears paid in full before it would reconnect. Mr R asked that the retailer consider a payment plan of $450 a fortnight. In line with EWOV’s Reconnection/Derestriction Policy, we arranged
for Mr R’s electricity to be reconnected, and we opened an Investigation.
Responding to EWOV’s Investigation, the retailer said that this was the fourth time Mr R’s electricity had been disconnected for non-payment. It said that, since 2015, it had provided Mr R with hardship assistance in the form of payment arrangements, all of which he had broken. It said that Mr R was sent three sets of Utility Relief Grant forms in 2018, but no completed forms had been received back from him. The retailer said it had also applied $109.36 in missed concessions (from January to October 2018) as a goodwill gesture, even though Mr R had not provided an updated concession card (since it had expired).
As part of EWOV’s Investigation, we reviewed Mr R’s usage data, billing, payment plans, and the retailer’s notes of its contacts with him. We confirmed the previous supply disconnections for nonpayment, and that the retailer had offered payment arrangements that weren’t met, including three broken hardship payment plans during 2018. Most recently (in August 2018) the retailer and Mr R had agreed on a $50 a week plan, for which no payment was received. We confirmed that Mr R had been sent three Utility Relief Grant forms in 2018, none of which had been submitted to the Department of Health and Human Services. We also confirmed the account credit of $109.36.
Mr R owed $3,361.77 for billing to early October 2018. His last payment was $50 in December 2015. The retailer offered him a new tariff, which increased his ‘15% off consumption’ to ‘45% off consumption’ if he paid his future bills on time. It provided a direct contact for him to discuss the offer. The retailer maintained that Mr R wasn’t entitled to a wrongful disconnection payment (WDP), because it had sent him the required notification, offered payment assistance (via four payment plans in the 12 months prior to disconnection) and he had made contact only after his supply was disconnected.
In line with EWOV’s policy, we attempted to contact Mr R to arrange part-payment of his arrears and convey the retailer’s response to our Investigation of his complaint.
When Mr R didn’t respond to our attempts to contact him, we closed EWOV’s Investigation of his complaint on the basis of his non-participation.
Even though we closed the complaint, we completed EWOV’s separate assessment of whether the latest disconnection of Mr R’s electricity was wrongful. We found that the retailer could substantiate that one payment plan had been correctly established, but not any others. The retailer reviewed its records of compliance and agreed that, because of this, a WDP was applicable.
Because Mr R was off supply for seven days, eight hours and 15 minutes, he was entitled to a WDP of $3,671.88. This was applied to his electricity arrears, leaving his account $310.11 in credit.