Conflicting information about solar tariff requirements resulted in PFiT loss (June 2017)

High bills, Billing mistakes
Case Number 2016/3808
Outcome Conciliation

The Issue

Mr W contacted EWOV dissatisfied with his electricity retailer after he had lost the Premium Feed-in Tariff (PFiT) from his bills. He had contacted the retailer in February 2015 to enquire about adding more solar panels to his roof. He was initially advised that this would result in his account losing PFiT credits. He then recontacted the retailer in September 2015 to organise the recontracting of his residential account. During this contact he enquired again about whether he would lose PFiT by recontracting and/or by adding more solar panels. During this call the representative he spoke to checked with a manager and told Mr W that he would still receive PFiT on his account even if he modified his system. Mr W requested this information in writing and was advised that this would be sent. After receiving this advice Mr W contacted his Registered Electrical Contractor (REC) to organise the increase in size of his solar system. Sometime later, he called the retailer again and was advised this time that he would lose PFiT. Given, that his contract with the REC was already in place, it was too late to cancel the works and the new solar panels were installed in May 2016.

In order to resolve the matter Mr W wanted the retailer to still provide PFiT on the account for three years or provide him with a $5,000 reimbursement.

The Investigation

When Mr W contacted EWOV in July 2016, an Assisted Referral was lodged with the retailer, requiring a higher-level representative to contact him directly. Soon after we escalated the matter to an Investigation after Mr W recontacted EWOV and told us he was not satisfied with the retailer’s offer of a $50 credit to fix the matter.

In order to investigate Mr W’s concerns further, EWOV completed a review of the account history including all billing issued, solar generation and calls between Mr W and the retailer. We also sought industry practice advice.

EWOV found that although Mr W had been previously advised in February 2015 that he would lose PFiT if he changed his solar system, he was then provided with conflicting information. Listening to the call recording of 29 September 2015, EWOV confirmed that the retailer representative told Mr W that he would continue to receive PFiT if he was to recontract or add more solar panels.

 

Mr W also spoke with the manager and received explicit confirmation that PFiT would still apply even if he added solar panels to increase the system’s capacity from 1.3kW to 4kW. As a result, Mr W accepted the new energy contract and proceeded to have his solar system size increased. Mr W provided EWOV with proof of his payments to his REC.

 

EWOV checked with its technical expert to see how much financial return Mr W’s system would have exported had he not increased the size of the system. The expert found that Mr W’s system would have been likely to generate approximately $5,200 until the end of the PFiT scheme in 2024.

EWOV then contacted three other energy retailers to find out what they would do to resolve this case. All companies contacted by EWOV advised that they would offer some form of reimbursement to the customer for the misinformation provided. One retailer advised it would offer 50% of Mr W’s claim ($2,500), another said it would provide the difference between the General Feed-in Tariff (GFiT) Mr W was now receiving and PFiT, and the third retailer said it would honour the PFiT agreement.

 

As a result of this advice that EWOV provided to the retailer, it decided to increase its offer and provide the customer with a $5,000 credit.

The Outcome

Mr W accepted the retailer’s offer to provide a credit of $5,000 via cheque and the case was closed.

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