Partner abuse leads to a wrongful disconnection (June 2017)

Energy disconnection and water restriction
Outcome Conciliation

The Issue

A friend of Ms D’s rang EWOV to lodge a complaint for her. We spoke with Ms D who gave authorisation for her friend to act on her behalf. The friend told us that Ms D’s electricity supply had been disconnected in late June 2016 and was not reconnected until the next day. He said that, having recently separated from her partner, Ms D had sent a copy of the court intervention order to her energy retailer, so that the electricity and gas accounts could be put into her name.

Some three weeks afterwards, Ms D’s former partner contacted the retailer and had both accounts put back into his name. He then authorised disconnection of the property’s gas and electricity. Ms D’s friend said that Ms D had since been reinstated as the account holder, but she was concerned that her former partner may be able to regain control of the accounts again without her knowledge.

The Investigation

With this understanding of Ms D’s situation, we registered two complaints for Investigation (electricity and gas). Responding to our Investigation, Ms D’s energy retailer initially said it wouldn’t be able to prevent the accounts being switched to another energy retailer and Ms D was aware of this. It offered a $50 customer service credit. We encouraged the energy retailer to come up with practical options to prevent Ms D’s electricity or gas account being changed or transferred without her consent. After some internal discussions, the retailer presented possible solutions.

The Outcome

The agreed outcome was that two safeguards would be applied to each account — an account lock and a password. The account lock will ensure that Ms D’s permission is required before the account can be switched to another retailer, and no changes will be able to be made to either account without the password.

Separately, we considered whether the disconnections were wrongful. In relation to the electricity disconnection, the energy retailer offered to pay the equivalent of a Wrongful Disconnection Payment (WDP) without admitting a breach. Ms D received $478.47.

Our Investigation of the gas disconnection found that the gas was in fact still connected, but Ms D’s appliances wouldn’t work without the electricity being connected too. The complaints were closed on this basis.

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