Customer faces disconnection and debt collection activity after failure to offer hardship assistance (August 2014)

Energy disconnection and water restriction, Trouble paying a bill, Debt collection and credit default listings, High bills
Case Number 2014/1911
Outcome Assisted Referral

The Issue

The customer contacted EWOV on 16 January 2014, dissatisfied about payment difficulties,  an electricity disconnection, and debt collection activity on his gas account without prior notification.  

The customer told us that his electricity had been disconnected for around three days in November 2013, but that he had not received a disconnection warning notice until after the disconnection. The retailer had asked for an upfront payment of $400 before it would re-connect supply. The customer borrowed money to make this payment.

When the customer contacted EWOV seeking hardship assistance, he was not on a payment plan, and the balance on his electricity account was $775.23.

The Outcome

EWOV spoke to the customer about his circumstances and what he could afford to pay towards his electricity account. The customer, a public housing tenant, said that he was struggling to meet his children’s back-to-school costs. He agreed to make an initial $10 payment, but wanted to speak with Centrelink before committing to a payment plan.

We discussed the customer’s hardship circumstances with the retailer. For the customer’s electricity account, the retailer agreed to provide an Utility Relief Grant (URG) application and refer the customer to its hardship program. Without acknowledging that the electricity disconnection was wrongful, the retailer offered to apply a credit of $750 (equivalent to the maximum Wrongful Disconnection Payment for the period of disconnection) to the customer’s account. The customer agreed to begin a $20 per fortnight payment plan to pay the remaining amount.

Because the customer’s gas account had been closed, he was no longer eligible for a gas URG or hardship assistance. However, the retailer offered a two month extension for the customer to pay his gas arrears of $520.77. The customer was satisfied with these responses and his cases were closed.

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