Personal information about our customers has been changed to protect their privacy.
Marlene's story: Tenant moves out but doesn't advise gas and electricity supplier
Tenant moves out but doesn’t advise gas and electricity supplier
Marlene moved out of her rented apartment in August, but didn’t advise her gas and electricity supplier. In November she received a $485 energy bill for usage at those premises from June up until November.
She contacted the supplier to say she’d moved out in August and the supplier received verbal confirmation of this from the landlord. However, the new tenants denied responsibility for the bill on the grounds that their rent, which they paid directly to the landlord, included bills.
Marlene came to EWON for assistance as she considered that she was not responsible for any part of the bill after the date she moved out. We explained to Marlene that a customer may be held responsible for all charges up until the provider becomes aware that the customer is no longer residing at the premises or another customer opens an account for the same premises.
We suggested Marlene present some documentation to prove her move-out date to her supplier, which she did. The supplier maintained that Marlene was responsible for the bill, but made an offer to reduce her account by $219 as a customer service gesture, which she accepted.
Sadanah's story: Transfer made without consent
Transfer made without consent
Sadanah doesn’t speak English and was not the energy account holder in her household, but when a door to door marketer came to her home she signed up to a dual fuel contract. Her husband Ahmad came home in time to realise what had happened and he caught up with the marketer. He explained that they did not consent to the transfer and the marketer said it would be cancelled.
But after some time, Sadanah received a bill from the retailer the door to door marketer represented. She and Ahmad rang the supplier to explain the situation and were advised the account would be transferred back. But Sadanah continued to receive bills and then received one with an early termination fee.
Ahmad came to EWON for help. EWON spoke with the retailer, who advised that there was no record of the customer making contact to cancel the transfer. There was $466 owing on the account, including an early termination fee. The retailer transferred the electricity and gas accounts back to the previous suppliers and offered to waive the final bill.
Lyn's story: misleading marketing leads to payment plan cancellation
Lyn is misled by door to door marketer and loses her payment plan
Lyn is a recovering alcoholic with limited literacy who has been struggling to pay her gas and electricity bills. When a door to door energy marketer came to her home, Lyn explained that she was already on a payment plan to clear a debt with her existing electricity and gas retailer. The marketer claimed that transferring her account would not affect this payment arrangement.
Lyn agreed to the new contract based on this information. However, when the transfer went through and her existing account was closed, the payment plan was cancelled and she received a letter from a collections agency demanding payment of $185 to cover her outstanding debt.
Lyn wanted to transfer her electricity and gas accounts back to her previous supplier and to re-establish her $50 per fortnight payment plan with the company. She contacted the new retailer and they agreed to reverse the transfer, but the reference number they provided was not accepted by her former retailer and she couldn’t set up an account with them.
Having tried without success to resolve the problem directly with the retailer, Lyn came to EWON for help. With Lyn’s agreement, we referred the matter to specialist dispute resolution teams at both retailers. The new retailer confirmed that everything was now in place on both sides for the transfer to go ahead as requested and that a $60 credit would be refunded to the customer.
Karen's story: gas and electricity accounts transferred without consent
Karen denies consenting to an account transfer and is concerned about improper marketing practices
Karen received a phone call from an energy broker. The telemarketer asked Karen whether she was taking advantage of her benefits as a customer of her telecommunications provider, then went on to say she was eligible for discounts on her power bill if she merged her gas and her electricity account with another energy retailer. Karen said she didn’t want to take up this offer, but then several months later she received correspondence from this retailer saying they had taken over the billing of her gas and electricity.
She called the retailer and was told that the transfer request had been made by the marketing company – contact details for which they were unable to give Karen – and that she would have to pay a $90 fee to transfer back to her previous supplier. Karen considered that the transfer had been made without her consent and she came to EWON for assistance.
We discussed the case with Karen, who explained that she wanted her gas and electricity accounts transferred back to her previous retailers with no penalty, as she maintained she never consented to the contract. She also wanted to report her concerns about poor marketing practices.
As part of our investigation, the voice recording of Karen’s conversation with the marketing company was reviewed. The retailer represented by the company confirmed that Karen had not provided explicit informed consent to transfer the accounts, and agreed to transfer them back without charge. They also confirmed that they had since taken steps with the energy broker to ensure they abide by the marketing Code of Conduct and sent a letter of apology to Karen.
We assured Karen that her concerns regarding marketing conduct would be included in our regular reporting to the retailer and regulator.
Karen said she didn’t want to be contacted again by the retailer and agreed to our offer to request she be removed from the company’s internal marketing database. To help Karen avoid similar problems in the future, we also sent her information on energy marketing and suggested she might want to add her name to the Do Not Call Register.
Ciro's story: disconnected after transfer delay
Delayed transfer causes new tenant to be disconnected
Ciro established a gas account with Retailer A and paid the first quarterly bill. The next quarter he received a bill for $170 from Retailer B. He called Retailer A and was advised to ignore the bill and contact Retailer B to request a transfer back to Retailer A. Ciro did this and then went overseas for a month. When he returned home he found his gas had been disconnected.
He called EWON for help. EWON’s investigation found that Retailer B had the billing rights to Ciro’s address and that the account was in the name of the previous tenant, who had applied to switch from Retailer A to Retailer B. The transfer had then been delayed and the previous tenant didn’t contact Retailer B to cancel the transfer before he moved out. The transfer went ahead but not until after Ciro had moved in. In light of this, it appeared that Ciro had been billed correctly by Retailer B.
Ciro’s gas was reconnected and Retailer B offered a $60 customer service gesture due to the disconnection of his supply. Ciro was satisfied with the outcome and decided to establish an account with Retailer B.
Sandra's story: Failure to close account results in default listing
Failure to close account results in default listing
Sandra contacted EWON after being credit default listed for a $140 electricity debt which she considered was not hers.
Sandra said she owns a rental property which she used to live in. Sandra moved out of the property without closing the electricity account, because she thought the new tenant would open an account under their name.
When Sandra was contacted by the retailer about an outstanding bill for the property, she provided the retailer with the new tenant’s contact details.
The retailer later confirmed the account had been transferred into the tenant’s name and Sandra thought the matter was settled. She was unaware there was money owing on the account until she was denied a credit card because of a credit default listing.
Sandra contacted the retailer who said the tenant had only taken responsibility for part of the amount owing. Sandra disputed this however the retailer refused to remove the default listing.
We asked Sandra whether she could provide information to show when she moved out of the property and the energy account became the responsibility of the new tenant. Sandra provided a copy of the lease and we contacted the retailer to discuss her complaint.
The retailer accepted Sandra’s position that the debt was not hers and agreed to remove the credit default listing.
Added September 2018
Aphra's story: Retailer doesn't action cancellation within the cooling off period
Retailer doesn't action cancellation within the cooling off period
87 year old pensioner Aphra was approached by a door-to-door marketer one night and felt pressured into signing a contract to transfer over to the electricity retailer represented by the marketer. She was uncomfortable with the situation, so decided to cancel the contract.
Two days after the marketer’s visit an advocate at Aphra’s local council contacted the retailer on her behalf to request the cancellation. Aphra also posted a letter to the retailer requesting the cancellation of her contract.
Some weeks later, Aphra was advised that her account had been transferred, despite the letter and phone call made within the cooling off period to cancel the transfer. The retailer advised that they hadn’t received Aphra’s letter, but she had retained a registered post slip confirming the letter she sent had been received and signed for.
Aphra considered that her account should never have been transferred and wanted it returned to her previous retailer at no cost. EWON spoke with the retailer, who agreed to transfer Aphra back to her previous retailer without charge or penalty.
Hayley's story: Marketer signs up 16 year old non-account holder
Marketer signs up 16 year old non-account holder
Hayley was alone at her sister’s home when a door-to-door marketer arrived. Hayley took down the details of the offer to pass onto her brother-in-law, Tim, who was the account holder. Tim did not want to take up the offer. He was then contacted by his existing retailer about the transfer and he explained that he did not want the transfer to go ahead.
Some months later, a bill for $412 arrived for Hayley from the retailer that the door-to-door marketer had been promoting. As Hayley’s advocate, Tim contacted EWON for assistance to get the account transferred back into his name and returned to his preferred retailer.
We spoke to the new retailer who said that while they were able to do a retrospective transfer to the previous retailer, their records showed that Hayley was 19, that she had agreed to the contract and that she provided her Medicare card to the marketer. They confirmed that the company could not sign up a 16 year old.
The account was transferred back to Tim with his preferred provider. We established that Hayley was in fact 16 years old and reported this to the retailer, who advised that they would be following up the matter with the marketer who signed Hayley up.
Ronald's story: Vision impaired pensioner signs contract under pressure
Vision impaired pensioner signs contract under pressure
Ronald is an aged pensioner with impaired vision. When he was visited by a door-to-door marketer from an energy retailer, he felt he wasn’t given enough time to think through the offer. Under pressure, he signed a contract and agreed to transfer his account to this retailer.
Ronald wanted the transfer cancelled and to stay with his existing energy retailer. He called the new retailer, but the cooling off period had passed and he felt he did not fully understand all the questions that were asked of him. He came to EWON for help.
We spoke with the new retailer who agreed to transfer Ronald’s account back to his previous retailer and waive any early termination fee.
Kimberly's story: Householder misled by door-to-door marketer
Householder misled by door-to-door marketer
Kimberley was approached at home by a door-to-door marketer from Retailer A who advised her that her current retailer was no longer issuing bills to customers and that she would have to sign an agreement with Retailer A to issue her bills now. Kimberley believed the story and signed the papers.
Soon after, she was contacted by her previous provider to ask why she was transferring. Kimberley explained what the marketer had told her and, realising now that she had been misled, she decided she did not want to go ahead with the transfer. When Kimberley called Retailer A to cancel the contract, she was told she would have to pay a significant amount in termination fees. Kimberley came to EWON for assistance.
When we spoke to Retailer A, they maintained they hadn’t received a cancellation call from Kimberley, but agreed nonetheless to transfer the account back to her previous retailer at no charge and to investigate the marketer.
Miles' story: Customer disconnected for five days when account was transferred in error
Customer disconnected for five days when account was transferred in error
When Miles discovered his electricity had been disconnected, he decided to ride his bike to his mother’s home. But on the way he was involved in an accident and spent the night in hospital where he underwent surgery. Two days later, when Miles had gone to his mother’s place to recover, he called his retailer about the disconnection. They advised him that his account had in fact been transferred to another supplier.
Miles’ mother, Daria, then spoke with the new retailer, who said they had mistakenly entered Miles’ unit number and transferred him in error some months earlier. They said they would reconnect Miles’ supply that day and would call back to follow up. When neither happened, Daria called EWON for assistance.
Some delays with reconnection meant Miles’ unit remained disconnected for five days. During this time, he was staying with his mother and recovering from his accident. Daria explained that he wanted for food spoilage and for the inconvenience caused by the retailer's error. The retailer agreed to pay Miles $453 to cover his food loss and said they would not bill him the $170 owing for usage in the period before the retrospective transfer they made back to his previous retailer, who would bill him from then on.
Daria responded that this was not sufficient compensation for the inconvenience. EWON negotiated with the retailer who agreed to make a further goodwill gesture of $580. Miles accepted the offer and the matter was resolved.
Peggy's story: non-account holder transfer
Customer receives disconnection notice from an unfamiliar retailer
Peggy is an elderly Aboriginal woman living in regional NSW. When she received a disconnection notice from a retailer she had never heard of, Peggy contacted EWON for help.
Peggy explained she had been very ill and bedridden for some time and a family friend had stayed with her. When a marketer visited her property, her friend provided Peggy’s pension details to him, without Peggy’s knowledge or her consent to transfer her account. Peggy only realised there was a problem with her account when she received the disconnection notice. She was concerned about privacy and that a retailer she had never heard of had her personal details. Peggy wanted her account transferred back to her original retailer.
EWON organised for the disconnection action to be stopped and for Peggy’s account to return to her preferred supplier. The retailer acknowledged that Peggy had not agreed to the transfer and waived all the charges owing on Peggy’s account. Her preferred supplier then re-billed her from the transfer date.
Gayathri's story: transferred without consent
Customer’s electricity account transferred without consent
A marketer from Retailer A came to Gayathri’s apartment while she was out and spoke to her cousin Henry. Henry was on day-release from a refugee detention centre and he spoke limited English.
The marketer advised Henry that Retailer A was the new electricity provider for the area, and that the form needed to be signed to ensure that Gayathri's electricity supply would continue. Henry signed the form the marketer gave him.
When Gayathri found out what had happened, she contacted her previous retailer to cancel the transfer request. She was told that it was too late as the transfer had been completed. Gayathri emailed her previous retailer, but she received no reply. Gayathri called her previous retailer, who referred her to EWON for help.
EWON contacted Gayathri's previous retailer who said the transfer had not been completed as yet and the account was still in her name. We contacted Retailer A who agreed to cancel the transfer.
We advised Gayathri that we would be reporting the misleading marketing to the regulator.
Jeremy's story: transfer without consent
Housesitter signs contract without account holder’s consent
Eng was house-sitting for Jeremy while he was away for 10 days. During that time, a door-to-door energy marketer visited Jeremy’s home and suggested to Eng that she sign a contract. Eng didn’t speak much English and signed the contract without realising Jeremy’s account would be cancelled.
When Jeremy discovered his account had been transferred without his consent, he was very concerned. To complicate matters, Eng was the new account holder at the property but she was no longer in the country, as she had returned to China. Jeremy wasn’t sure when the last bill was paid and he was worried his supply would be disconnected so he contacted EWON for help. He said he just wanted his account transferred back to his original retailer.
EWON explained the situation to the new retailer, who agreed to cancel the contract signed by Eng and arranged to have the account transferred back to Jeremy’s preferred retailer at no cost.
Jacob's story: Account transferred when broker misled customer
Customer’s account transferred after speaking with switching broker
Jacob has been with Retailer A for ten years, so he was confused when he received a final bill with an early termination fee. He contacted his retailer and found out his account had been transferred to Retailer B.
He had previously contacted an energy broker to discuss options for electricity deals and was advised Retailer B had the best offer, but he did not sign any paperwork authorising the transfer.
Jacob contacted Retailer B several times to request they cancel his transfer but they were unwilling to assist him. Instead they tried to renegotiate the contract with him and said he would have to pay a termination fee if he cancelled.
Unable to resolve the problem, Jacob brought his case to EWON. EWON contacted Retailer B who provided a voice recording of Jacob agreeing to a contract. What Jacob did not realise was that the energy broker had transferred his call to the retailer and he had been speaking to a representative from Retailer B. Jacob had understood from his energy broker that the contract with Retailer B would only be effective once he signed and returned the paperwork.
Retailer B agreed to transfer Jacob back to Retailer A, waiving the early termination fee.
Iris' story: Misleading marketer signs up elderly customer
Elderly customer misled by false claims of door to door marketer
A door to door marketer came to Iris’ house and said that she would need to transfer her account to Retailer X as her existing retailer had closed down. Later Iris discovered this was not true and spoke to her friend Jenny about the experience.
Jenny contacted EWON for help in having Iris’ account transferred back to her preferred retailer. She explained that Iris is 91 years old and vulnerable.
EWON discussed the complaint with Retailer X, who acknowledged that Iris had been provided with incorrect and misleading information by the marketer. They agreed to retrospectively transfer Iris back to her previous supplier without charge.
Rowena's story: meter reader repeatedly misses appointment
Poor customer service causes Rowena to lose paid work days
Rowena was moving into a new apartment and called Retailer A to set up a gas and electricity account. Retailer A said they would need to get an electricity meter reading. As the meter was located behind locked doors, Rowena was advised she would have to be home to provide access to the reader. On four occasions Rowena took the day off work to let in the meter reader, but on each occasion no one showed up.
In the meantime, Rowena received a $400 electricity bill for six weeks’ usage from Retailer B, who supplied the previous occupant. Concerned that this bill was high and frustrated with Retailer A, Rowena came to EWON for help. She wanted Retailer A to acknowledge the inconvenience she had been caused by their poor customer service. She also wanted Retailer A to pay the $400 bill as compensation for the delay transferring her account and for the four days of pay she lost waiting for a meter reader.
We advised Rowena to establish an account with the incumbent retailer, Retailer B, so she could discuss the bill with them. She did this and, by providing proof of her move in date, was able to show she was not liable for the full amount billed, which resolved the issue of the high bill. She decided she no longer wanted to deal with Retailer A and said she wanted to cancel the transfer of her electricity account to Retailer A and to switch her gas account to be with Retailer B as well.
Retailer A denied Rowena’s compensation claim on the grounds that they do not compensate for lost wages. However, they agreed to waive her gas bill of $220. Rowena was pleased to receive this acknowledgement of the inconvenience she was caused and to have both her gas and electricity accounts established with her preferred provider.