Many house guests and mental illness lead to financial hardship and water restriction (April 2017)

Energy disconnection and water restriction, Trouble paying a bill, High bills
Case Number 2017/6548
Outcome Conciliation

The Issue

Mr B contacted EWOV because his friend Mr J’s water had been restricted due to a debt of about $2,000 on his water account. Mr B said Mr J was experiencing mental illness and financial hardship and was unable to navigate his water company’s phone system to sort out the problem. He said Mr J was currently paying $50 per fortnight to the water company.

EWOV sent the case straight to Investigation because of the water restriction, the large amount owing, and Mr J’s vulnerability.

The Investigation

We organised for Mr J’s water to be immediately de-restricted, and while the Investigation was underway, he agreed to keep making $50 fortnightly payments.

When a water company restricts a customer’s water supply, EWOV assesses whether or not it has followed the Essential Services Commission’s Check-List for Minimum “Reasonable Endeavours” – Hardship Related GSL before restricting the water. We asked the company to complete the Checklist to help us assess whether a Guaranteed Service Level (GSL) payment of $300 was payable.

After talking to Mr B and the water company, we established that Mr J currently had up to 14 people staying at his home, and was using about 1,800 litres of water per day. This usage added up to over $120 per fortnight, far more than Mr J’s $50 fortnightly payments.

The Outcome

The water company agreed to continue with a $50 per fortnight payment plan as it was all Mr J could afford. However, the company asked that Mr J attempt to reduce his water usage to bring it in line with his capacity to pay. To help with this, it said it would place Mr J on in its hardship program which has a focus on water efficiency and can provide a referral to a financial counsellor. In addition, a member of the hardship team at the company would visit the property to conduct a leak test, provide water efficiency advice, and assist Mr J in applying for the Utility Relief Grant Scheme.

During our Investigation, the company voluntarily opted to apply a $300 GSL payment to Mr J’s account. It also waived the water restriction charge of $195, taking the amount owing to about $1,500.

Mr B and Mr J were satisfied and the case was closed.

Related content

Hot topic

Having trouble paying your energy or water bill? Help is available (April 2017)

Energy disconnection and water restriction, Trouble paying a bill, Debt collection and credit default listings, High bills
In Victoria, all energy and water companies must have a hardship program to assist people who are struggling to pay their bills. Find out how they can help you.
Fact Sheet 7

Energy and water payment difficulties

Energy disconnection and water restriction, Trouble paying a bill, High bills
Information about what you should do if you can't pay an electricity, gas or water bill, and the assistance that may be available to you