An electric shock results in a visit by a distributor, followed by a disputed fee (November 2014)

Meters, poles, wires and pipes
Case Number 2014/37736
Outcome Conciliation

The Issue

A customer called an electrician after her husband received an electric shock while using an outside shower. The electrician requested a call-out from her electricity distributor as the premises needed to be disconnected from supply in order to carry out repairs. The distributor sent a crew to the premises to disconnect the supply, and it was found that the problem was in the Fuse Mains Junction Box (FMJB) - which is the responsibility of the customer to maintain.

The electrician took approximately one hour to complete the FMJB replacement, and during that time the distributor's crew replaced the service line while they waited to turn the supply back on. Due to its sea-side location, the line had some salt corrosion, and it is the distributor's responsibility to maintain it.

Following this, the customer received an invoice for the truck visit from her distributor totalling $505.55. The customer believed she should only have to pay half of the fee, given the distributor would had to have attended her property to replace the service line. She contacted her distributor, but it said that the invoice was appropriate. Dissatisfied, she contacted EWOV.

EWOV raised an Assisted Referral, however the distributor requested the complaint be escalated to an Investigation as it maintained the fee was fair.

The Investigation

As part of our investigation, EWOV asked the distributor to provide a copy of the invoice, any relevant documents, confirmation that it had complied with relevant laws, codes and guidelines, and its suggestions for resolving the complaint - which it did.

The distributor said the service fee had been approved by the Australian Energy Regulator, and before the customer had contacted EWOV, it had offered her a payment arrangement for the fee - which was still available to her. It said that while the service line was replaced during the call-out, it was not the cause of the customer's equipment failure - which was the reason for the service call.

It said the service line supplying the property was on a five-year inspection cycle, and was due for its next inspection in just over two years. There had been no reported defects on the line, and it said it was not unusual to replace service lines, even for minor issues.

EWOV conducted a good industry practice assessment in order to gauge how other organisations in the field would approach the issue, and received responses from two other electricity distributors. The first distributor noted its own truck visit fees were approximately half of the fee in question. However, it also said that the fact that the customer received a new service line while the crew were waiting around could be seen as beneficial to her, and that in the same position it would seek the full fee.

The second distributor said that it could understand the customers point of view, and would in that case waive half of the fee. In light of this industry advice, EWOV suggested the distributor and the customer consider meeting in the middle, and waiving/paying a quarter of the fee.

The Outcome

The distributor agreed to waive a quarter of the fee as a gesture of good will, and in an effort to resolve the complaint. The customer was satisfied and the case was closed.

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