A customer experienced frequent electricity outages (June 2016)

Outages, brownouts and power surges
Case Number 2016/1721
Outcome Conciliation

The Issue

Mrs T contacted EWOV on 25 January 2016, dissatisfied that her property had experienced frequent electricity outages in 2015 and 2016. In total, she had counted 18 outages for 2015 and two outages since the start of 2016. She had attempted to resolve her concerns directly with her electricity distributor but remained dissatisfied so contacted EWOV. In order to resolve her complaint, Mrs T was seeking her electricity distributor to provide compensation for the frequent loss of power and for the continuing supply issues to be fixed.

The Investigation

EWOV initially lodged the complaint as an Assisted Referral. However, Mrs T recontacted EWOV via email on 21 March 2016 and advised she remained dissatisfied. The case was then escalated to EWOV’s Real Time Resolution (RTR) process. As part of the RTR process the customer clarified that she was seeking the electricity distributor assess her claim for compensation for a damaged fridge and assess her eligibility for a Guaranteed Service Level (GSL) payment because of the frequency of the outages to her property. She also wanted to know why she had experienced so many outages.

The electricity distributor and EWOV discussed the complaint and agreed that it was not suitable for the RTR process as it required further investigation into Mrs T’s concerns. As a result, EWOV escalated the complaint to Investigation.

As part of the Investigation, EWOV clarified that Mrs T’s concerns about damages were in fact about potential damage to her fridge due to the frequency of outages. We confirmed that no damage had yet occurred and clarified with her the process to lodge a claim with the electricity distributor. We also provided advice from our technical expert about the impact the outages would have on appliances. Mrs T was satisfied with the information provided and did not need anything further for this part of her complaint.

EWOV reviewed the electricity distributor’s records of outages for 2015 and 2016, and its contact with Mrs T. During the investigation, Mrs T also raised concerns about a loss of solar credits, due to her property being off-supply so frequently.

The Outcome

As a result of EWOV’s investigation, the electricity distributor acknowledged that Mrs T’s street had experienced a number of outages, some of which were caused by events outside of its control (for example, bird interfering with the network and extreme weather conditions). Some other outages were caused by overburdening of the network in Mrs T’s area which resulted in blown fuses. This had previously been investigated by the electricity distributor and fixed in 2015.

Given the continued outages, the distributor advised that it had completed testing which resulted in the replacement of several parts of the infrastructure. The distributor also said that it would continue to monitor the performance of its infrastructure in the area. It would also be enhancing its substation that fed the area by the end of 2016. Mrs T was satisfied with the electricity distributor’s information and proposed action to fix the long-term issues – she also stated that outages had been fewer in 2016 compared to 2015.  

The electricity distributor also assessed Mrs T’s entitlement for a Guaranteed Service Level (GSL) payment and confirmed she was entitled to $120. This would be applied to her electricity account (via the electricity retailer) in February 2017. It also calculated the possible loss of solar credits because of the unplanned outages during the recorded periods – based on her historical consumption and the applicable solar tariff (Transitional Feed-in Tariff (TFIT)). In acknowledgement of these lost credits it advised that the customer would receive a further credit of $50. It also provided a direct contact at the company for Mrs T if she had any further queries.

Although there is no guarantee of supply in Victoria, distributors are required to use best endeavours to meet reliability targets and otherwise meet reasonable customer expectations of supply reliability. Electricity distributor obligations are outlined in the Electricity Distribution Code (version 9). Specifically, it advises that a distributor is required to make a GSL payment of:

  • $120 for more than 20 hours of unplanned sustained interruptions per year
  • $180 for more than 30 hours of unplanned sustained interruptions per year
  • $360 for more than 60 hours of unplanned sustained interruptions per year.

It is also important to note that where the power outage was outside the control of the distributor — e.g. due to a bushfire or storm — the distributor may not be required to pay a GSL.

Based on EWOV’s review of the outage history for the property, the customer had been off supply for approximately 12 hours and therefore the electricity distributor’s GSL payment calculations were correct. The customer was satisfied with the information provided and the credits offered as resolution of the case.

For more information about customer and distributor responsibilities for unplanned outages, GSL payments and claims, read EWOV’s Planned and unplanned energy and water supply outages fact sheet. The Victorian Government website also has information about electricity GSLs, including supply service standards.

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