Surge appliance damage (D/96/2)

Case number: D/96/2
Date of Decision: 17 December 1996
Decision accepted by the customer: Yes

A residential customer contacted EIOV about damage to his video cassette recorder, microwave oven and household lighting which he believed was caused by a power surge.

The total cost of the damage was $528.95. The customer's insurance company agreed to pay $428.95, leaving the customer to pay a $100 excess. The customer called the electricity company which advised that it would not accept liability for the damage, claiming that the surge had been caused by a possum and was therefore outside its control.

The customer contacted EIOV seeking an investigation of the incident. He also expressed his concern at the level of customer service he received while attempting to gain an adequate explanation of the cause of the event. He stated that he was unable to speak to a company representative when he first contacted the company to query the cause of the surge and was then given conflicting information relating to the cause of the surge. The customer stated that the explanation of the cause provided by the company raised questions regarding the capacity of the system to withstand such an event. He also believed that the company had been disparaging of him, referring to him as "only a domestic customer" in a phone conversation.

EIOV undertook an investigation of the customer's claim and requested and received reports from the company regarding the event at the customer's address. The company maintained that there had been a surge as a result of possum interference, however, the company denied liability for the event, stating it did not settle on cases in which possums or birds were the cause.

EIOV also sought advice from two consultant engineers. They raised questions as to the actual cause of the incident, as the only information provided by the electricity company was outage analysis notations. In addition, the technical advisers queried the capacity of the electricity company's equipment to sustain the fault. EIOV also requested and examined notes provided by the customer of a telephone conversation he claimed to have had with the company.

On the basis of the available documentary and other evidence, the Ombudsman determined that by reason of its failure to provide reasonable customer service, the fair and reasonable outcome was to direct the company to make a payment to the customer of $200.