A customer has difficulty paying his electricity bills (September 2014)

Energy disconnection and water restriction, Trouble paying a bill
Case Number 2014/35905
Outcome Conciliation

The Issue

The customer was dissatisfied with his electricity company about payment plan difficulties for his account. He had been paying $37 per fortnight but had problems making some payments on time and then received a disconnection warning notice for an outstanding account balance of $1,678.87. The customer called the company to re-establish a payment plan, but had difficulty negotiating a new arrangement because he had been unable to maintain previous (higher) payment plans. The company wanted him to pay $60 per fortnight to avoid disconnection, which he told the company he could not afford as he had been unemployed for a few months. He wanted to continue paying $37 per fortnight via direct debit, but the company said this would not cover his ongoing usage charges.

Dissatisfied with the company’s response to his payment plan request and its lack of assistance with his temporary hardship, the customer contacted EWOV on 6 August 2014 and an Assisted Referral was initially raised. However, on 11 August 2014, the company requested that EWOV complete an Investigation due to the complexity of the complaint.

The Outcome

As part of EWOV’s Investigation, we reconciled the customer’s billing and payment history to ensure he had been billed correctly. We also confirmed that government concessions and a $500 Utility Relief Grant (URG) payment had been correctly applied to the customer’s account. As a result of EWOV’s investigation, the company placed the customer back onto its hardship program and proposed a new incentive payment arrangement of $46 per fortnight to cover the customer’s ongoing usage and manage the arrears. Under this payment arrangement, for every two $46 fortnightly payments made on time, the company would credit the account with $46.

The customer confirmed that $46 per fortnight was in line with his capacity to pay, as the incentive payment plan helped reduce the account balance. The company also offered to provide a free in-home energy audit to help the customer save on future energy bills, and a referral to a financial counsellor. The customer was satisfied with the outcome and the complaint was closed.

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