A power surge causes damage to a customer’s premises (February 2014)

Outages, brownouts and power surges
Case Number 2013/18260
Outcome Conciliation

The Issue

In June 2012, the customer's business experienced a voltage variation (power surge) event which caused damage to her electrical switchboard and the heating unit. As a safety precaution, the electricity distributor attended the property and disconnected the power from the pole to prevent any further voltage spikes and damage.  The customer also had an electrician attend the business, the same day, and the electrical switchboard was replaced. Electrician and repair costs resulted in the customer submitting a claim to the distributor for nearly $12,000. The distributor declined the claim as it said that a fallen tree branch on the power lines had caused the power outage and therefore the event was out of its control. However, the customer disputed this information as her electrician had advised her that two power lines had touched causing the power surge. She also had photos which showed power lines touching near her property.

Dissatisfied with the distributor’s response to her initial claim, the customer contacted EWOV on 8 April 2013 and an Assisted Referral was raised. The customer remained dissatisfied after the distributor continued to reject her claim for reimbursement.  As a result, the customer recontacted EWOV on 13 May 2013 and an Investigation commenced.

The Investigation

EWOV’s investigation included a review of the electrician’s report, photos of the damaged switchboard and power lines. We also investigated if a tree branch had fallen, as the distributor had stated, causing the event. Industry practice was also obtained, this provided advice about what other distributors would do to resolve a complaint in similar circumstances. EWOV’s investigation found that it was not clear if a tree in proximity to the power lines near the customer’s property caused the event. The distributor agreed with EWOV’s assessment and offered to reimburse most of the costs.

The Outcome

The distributor agreed to pay the claim of $11,803.12 for the damage the electrical equipment and electrician’s fees. The customer was required to sign a release form in full and final settlement of the matter. The distributor also offered a $500 payment in recognition of the customer service received.  The customer was satisfied with the offer made and the Investigation was closed.

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