A customer couldn’t pay his arrears due to unemployment, and wasn’t eligible for hardship assistance because he changed retailers (November 2017)

Trouble paying a bill, Debt collection and credit default listings
Case Number 2017/24654 and 2017/24656
Outcome Conciliation

The Issue

Mr L called EWOV in relation to payment difficulties, including his retailer not offering a payment plan, and threatening debt collection. Mr L was in arrears of $3,831, combined for both gas and electricity. He told us that his retailer sent him a final notice of demand and advised him it no longer wanted him as a customer. As a result, Mr L switched retailers. Mr L called his original retailer to organise payment of his debt, and requested to pay off his arrears using his unemployment benefits. He told us the retailer said he would have to pay $295 per fortnight, which he could not afford. Mr L advised he could afford $50 per fortnight, which the retailer refused. He wanted the retailer to set up a regular affordable payment plan of $50 per fortnight, to be direct debited from his account. He also wanted assurance from the retailer than he would not receive a credit default listing.

The Investigation

We raised an Assisted Referral, and when the customer contacted the retailer again, it told him that his arrears had been overdue for too long, and that it would refer his account to a debt collection agency. Mr L asked for direct deposit details so he could make a payment to the retailer, but it refused to provide them. Mr L re-contacted EWOV because he and the retailer could not resolve the dispute. We raised an Investigation. We contacted the retailer and it informed us that both Mr L’s accounts were closed, and as such he was not eligible to receive hardship assistance. It also confirmed Mr L was in arrears of $3,831, and had not made a payment in six months. It noted that he had not been default listed. Based on this information, we discussed with the retailer what would be a fair and reasonable payment arrangement for Mr L.

The Outcome

Due to Mr L’s unemployment, the retailer agreed to a payment plan of $50 per fortnight, for six months only, after which the payment plan would be reviewed. The retailer told us that if Mr L missed even one payment, his debt would be referred to a collection agency. Mr L gave the retailer his banking details in order for a fortnightly direct deposit to be set up. The customer was satisfied with the outcome and we closed the case.

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