Multiple amended backbills cause customer confusion (May 2014)

Getting connected and changing energy company, Delayed and catch-up bills
Case Number 2014/652
Outcome Conciliation

The Issue

After transferring to a new energy retailer in August 2013, the customer received multiple amended backbills, covering a fifteen month period, from her previous retailer. Although the customer had previously been told her account was in credit, the retailer advised that the total owing was $901.66. Confused about the validity of the new bills and the amount that was payable, the customer made contact with the retailer a number of times, but was unable to resolve the issue. The customer contacted EWOV seeking an explanation for the re-issued bills and confirmation that they were based on her actual usage.

The Outcome

After an Assisted Referral failed, the complaint went to EWOV’s Real Time Resolution process, which unfortunately failed to resolve the complaint also. From there the matter proceeded to Investigation.

The retailer confirmed that the re-issued bills were based on the customer’s actual energy usage, explaining that the bills had been cancelled and re-issued because the distributor had supplied amended consumption data for the affected period. Because the retailer cancelled bills that had already been paid before re-issuing amended bills, the customer’s account was briefly in credit until the amended charges were applied.

The retailer explained that Energy Retail Code provisions limiting backbills to nine months did not affect the amount owing. Of the re-issued bills, those that were more than nine months old were re-issued for the same amount, whereas the more recent bills were re-issued for higher amounts.

The retailer acknowledged and apologised for the confusion that the re-billing had caused, applied a further $200 credit to the customer’s account, and offered a three month payment extension. The customer asked for an additional month to pay the arrears, which the retailer granted, setting up a four-month payment plan.

The customer felt that she had been given a clear explanation of why she was re-billed, and a suitable resolution to manage the remaining arrears, and the case was closed. 

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