A customer found herself billed by an energy retailer for an account she never consented to opening (October 2017)

Getting connected and changing energy company, Billing mistakes
Case Number 2017/20721 and 2017/16324
Outcome Conciliation

The Issue

Mrs H contacted EWOV after an energy retailer opened gas and electricity accounts in her name without her consent. She recently completed construction on her house, and she said she was told by the builder she would be contacted by the energy retailer in order to create a new account. She gave the builder her details, with the understanding that they would be used for the retailer to contact her to set up an account. However, without contacting Mrs H to obtain her permission, the retailer put her on gas and electricity contracts, and charged her a connection fee. Mrs H contacted the retailer and told them she did not consent to the creation of these accounts. She said the retailer threatened disconnection if she did not pay a bill of $227.62 for meter installation, and $175.52 for usage between 21 July 2017 and 8 August 2017. The customer, seeking a cancellation of the account and for the retailer to waive the charges, approached EWOV.

The Investigation

EWOV raised an Assisted Referral. The retailer contacted Mrs H and said it would apply a discount on her usage. It said that the account had been set up by Mrs H’s builder under her contract with him, which gave him the authority to set up the accounts on her behalf. The retailer suggested Mrs H follow up with the builder, as their records indicated the accounts were set up by the building company with the customer’s consent. The retailer did not provide any evidence of this to Mrs H.

The customer was not satisfied with this advice, and recontacted EWOV. She said when she gave the builder her details there was nothing written on the form to suggest she was entering into any kind of contract with the retailer. She said that because the retailer had never sent her a contract, it did not have her consent to charge her connection or usage fees in the first place. The complaint was subsequently escalated to an Investigation by EWOV. As part of the inquiry, the retailer told EWOV it had received an authority form from the builder, signed by Mrs H, giving it permission to open accounts in her name. However, the retailer did not provide this documentation to EWOV.

The Outcome

The retailer offered to waive Mrs H’s electricity account balance of $359.83 and her gas account balance of $105.32. It advised that it had closed both her accounts as a result of the EWOV investigation. Mrs H was satisfied with the outcome and EWOV closed the case.

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