$20,000 owing in debt and disconnected twice (November 2016)

Energy disconnection and water restriction, Trouble paying a bill
Case Number 2016/14059
Outcome Conciliation

The Issue

Mr B was unhappy that his electricity retailer had disconnected his supply twice. He told EWOV that he had been disconnected for the first time in late June 2016 and again in early July. His current outstanding balance was $25,000 and the electricity retailer was seeking payment in full before it would reconnect supply. Mr B told EWOV that he had not received bills for eight months and had some personal issues which had impacted his capacity to repay the arrears. He said that the electricity retailer would not offer a payment plan unless he paid at least 75% of the arrears – which he also believed was too high. He told EWOV he could afford $100 per week. In order to resolve the matter Mr B asked that the electricity retailer provide assistance via its hardship program, reconnect his electricity supply and investigate his high bills.

When Mr B contacted EWOV, an Investigation was lodged straight away due Mr B’s circumstances and because there had been multiple disconnections and significant high arrears.

The Investigation

Initially the electricity retailer proposed that EWOV conduct a financial assessment to substantiate Mr B’s capacity to pay $100 per week towards the arrears, and to conduct an Energy Assessment/Audit to assist in reducing consumption at the property.

While the electricity retailer did provide all records for the account (contact notes, account reconciliations, billing), it did not provide any further details of a payment plan or assistance it would offer. EWOV reviewed the information provided and completed two Wrongful Disconnection Payment (WDP - download our fact sheet for more infomation [PDF, 251 KB]) assessments and a financial assessment. The following outlines the result of this investigation.

  • EWOV’s financial assessment confirmed that Mr B had a change of circumstances and was now employed, which had increased his ability to repay the arrears.
  • EWOV discussed the billing and consumption at the property with Mr B, who accepted that his bills had been correctly issued and did not seek further investigation into billing.
  • Energy efficiency advice was also provided to assist in reducing consumption.
  • EWOV assessed both disconnections for non-payment of arrears (6 June 2016 – 7 June 2016 and 4 July 2016 to 5 July 2016), and confirmed that they were completed in accordance with the Energy Retail Code and no WDP was applied.

The Outcome

EWOV explained the findings of its Investigation to the energy retailer and Mr B. The electricity retailer agreed to accept a payment plan that would increase incrementally – from $150 per week until December 2016, to $200 per week until February 2017 and then $250 from February 2017. It advised that this payment plan covered his weekly consumption of $100. Mr B accepted that the disconnections had occurred because of non-payment of arrears and were completed in line with the regulations. A direct contact was also provided for Mr B. He was satisfied with the offer made and the complaint was closed.

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In Victoria, all energy and water companies must have a hardship program to assist people who are struggling to pay their bills. Find out how they can help you.