Customer seeks compensation for electricity blackout/load shedding event during heatwave

Outages, brownouts and power surges
Case Number 2019/8047
Outcome Conciliation

The Issue

Mr P contacted us about damage he claimed was linked to an unplanned electricity outage at his property. Mr P’s electricity distribution company was directed by the Australian Energy Market Operator to temporarily cut power to some homes on 25 January 2019 due to extreme heat. These ‘load shedding’ events take place to stop the entire electricity grid from failing when extreme heat causes a spike in demand. Mr P told us that his air conditioning unit was damaged during the unplanned outage because the unit could not discharge water. He sought compensation of $1,500.

The Investigation

We raised an assisted referral on Mr P’s behalf with his distribution company to help the parties resolve the complaint. During the assisted referral, Mr P advised us that his distribution company reviewed his case and said it would not accept his claim for compensation because the outage happened as part of load shedding. Mr P was unhappy with this and we began an investigation into the case. During our investigation, the distribution company advised us that the claim was greater than the scheduled amount in the guidelines covering voltage variation compensation and that the outage was out of its control. It also claimed there was no power surge on the day. Mr P had replaced the air conditioning unit and disposed of the faulty unit and so the unit could not be assessed as part of the claim.

We did a technical review and discovered that Mr P’s electricity supply voltage was out of code for at least 20 minutes after the load shedding. However, without access to the damaged air conditioner unit, we couldn’t assess if any damage was due to voltage variation. We requested some information from other distributors on what would be good industry practice in this case. Two other Victorian electricity distributors advised us that they would not pay the $1,500 Mr P was seeking and that they would need access to the air conditioner or a report confirming that damage was due to voltage variation. One distributor said that, even if it was payable, that the value of the older unit would be around $500.

The Outcome

P’s distribution company offered him a credit of $500 as a customer service gesture. Mr P agreed to the resolution and the case was closed.

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