UTILITIES DISPUTES CASE NUMBER 30519
Outcome     Recommendation - upheld

The Complaint

Mr Q complained about the way his electricity retailer dealt with his accounts. Mr Q says this caused him stress, inconvenience, and a back bill for $1019.41.

Mr Q stayed with the same retailer when he moved to a new property. This meant he had two accounts with the retailer, one at the old property (first account) and one at the new property (second account).

Mr Q said the retailer:

  • Made errors on both accounts
  • Dealt improperly with the $100 payment he made in December 2010
  • Dealt improperly with the balance owing on the first account
  • Did not bill him for the second account between September 2010 and April 2011, causing a large back bill
  • Wrongly disconnected Mr Q’s new property for vacancy in April 2011
  • Provided poor customer service

In response to Mr Q’s complaint, the retailer credited Mr Q’s second account with $150. Mr Q was not satisfied with this response.

The Outcome

The parties were unable to settle the complaint between them and asked the Commissioner to recommend a settlement.

The Commissioner upheld all aspects of the complaint and recommended the retailer credit Mr Q’s account with a further $750.

The EGCC’s findings are summarised below.

The retailer made errors on Mr Q’s first account by:

  • Failing to close the account in a timely manner
  • Billing Mr Q for electricity used at his old property when he no longer lived there

The retailer made a number of errors on Mr Q’s second account. These were:

  • Closing the second account when it should have opened it
  • Sending Mr Q an incorrect bill for the second account
  • Failing to send a bill for the second account to Mr Q between September 2010 and April 2011, which resulted in Mr Q later receiving a back bill for $1019.14

Mr Q made a $100 payment to the retailer in December 2010. The retailer dealt with this in a confusing way because it:

  • Applied $16.33 of the $100 to the first account, which had a balance owing of $56.47 and should have been closed
  • Applied $83.47 of the $100 to the second account
  • Did not tell Mr Q (either directly or indirectly through billing) it had split his payment in this way

The retailer dealt with the balance of $56.47 owing for the first account in a confusing way because it:

  • Only applied $16.33 of the $100 payment from December 2010 to the first account balance when the account was overdue by $56.47 from October 2010
  • Did not tell Mr Q it only paid $16.33 to the first account leaving $40.14 owing (due 13 October 2010)
  • Did not send reminder letters for the remaining balance of $40.14 until 24 February and 14 March 2011

In April 2011 the retailer wrongly disconnected Mr Q’s new property for vacancy, although Mr Q was living there at the time.

Overall, the Commissioner believed the retailer provided Mr Q with poor customer service by:

  • Making numerous errors on Mr Q’s accounts, leading to a wrongful disconnection and a large back bill
  • Failing to identify or correct the problems with Mr Q’s accounts over nine months (August 2010 to April 2011)
  • Giving Mr Q confusing and incorrect information over the phone and by post on more than one occasion
  • Failing to return Mr Q’s phone calls from 13 April 2011 as promised

Both parties accepted the Commissioner’s recommendation.