A customer begins receiving ‘Dear Occupier’ letters and has his electricity disconnected (November 2017)

Energy disconnection and water restriction, Trouble paying a bill, Delayed and catch-up bills
Case Number 2017/19389
Outcome Conciliation

The Issue

Mr B believed he had been paying $10 per week towards his electricity bills through a bill smoothing plan. For a period of some months he received ‘Dear Occupier’ letters from his retailer with billing outstanding, which he did not respond to believing that he had been paying his account. On 6 September 2017, his electricity was disconnected. When Mr B contacted his retailer, it asked him to pay a $50 reconnection fee and that it would backbill him for his recent usage. It couldn’t explain what had happened to his account or why his payments had been stopped.

Mr B contacted EWOV, asking that his electricity be reconnected and his $10 per week bill smoothing payment plan reinstated. Because of the seriousness of the issue, we immediately opened an Investigation and asked that the retailer arrange for supply to be reconnected on the same day.

The Investigation

The following day, Mr B called us to say that his electricity still hadn’t been reconnected. We contacted the retailer, and it said that a reconnection had been scheduled for the next day. We asked that reconnection be brought forward, and it arranged for Mr B’s electricity to be restored immediately.

Reviewing data from the national metering database as well as the retailer’s response to our enquiries, we found that Mr B’s meter had been listed as ‘inactive’ from February 2016 to November 2016. The retailer hadn’t requested this de-energisation and wasn’t able to explain why it had happened. Nevertheless, it had cancelled Mr B’s account and, in August 2017, set up and backbilled a new ‘Dear Occupier’ account. The retailer said that it had now re-established Mr B’s account and issued a new backbill in his name. In line with the Energy Retail Code rules, this backbill was limited to nine months’ usage.

In the course of our Investigation, we noticed that the customer might be in financial hardship. We advised the retailer of this so that it could consider the customer’s circumstances in its response to the complaint.

The Outcome

The retailer apologised for the inconvenience Mr B had experienced, and offered a $250 credit in recognition of its poor customer service and waived the reconnection fee. It confirmed that after that credit was applied, Mr B’s account balance was $392.77. Mr B agreed to a new $30 per fortnight payment plan, and the retailer referred Mr B to its hardship team to discuss other assistance options. As Mr B was satisfied with this resolution, we closed the case.

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