Steven's story: Difficulty cancelling inappropriate energy contract
Marketer signs up dementia sufferer and retailer delays contract cancellation
Steven has Power of Attorney for his 83 year old mother, Lorraine, who suffers dementia. Lorraine was approached by a door to door marketer from Retailer A and signed a three year dual fuel contract.
The next day, Steven contacted the retailer to explain the situation and request the contract and transfer be cancelled. The representative he spoke with requested a letter from Lorraine’s doctor as proof of her medical condition, so Steven obtained this and emailed it to the retailer immediately along with documentation of his Power of Attorney.
When he called the retailer four days later, they said it would take at least five days to process his email. Concerned that the cooling off period would expire in the interim, Steven came to EWON for assistance.
EWON spoke to Retailer A and arranged for Lorraine’s accounts to be returned to her previous retailers.
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.
Lucille's story: missing solar credit's
Customer waits months to have solar credits applied to her account
Lucille installed solar panels at her home, however her first bill after the installation did not show any solar credits. She called the retailer several times about the problem and each time was told they would amend and reissue her bill within a fortnight. Lucille didn’t receive an amended bill so she contacted EWON for help.
We offered to refer Lucille’s complaint to a senior person in the company and she agreed. The retailer contacted Lucille to discuss her complaint and said they would reissue a bill within a fortnight.
Again Lucille didn’t receive a bill, so she contacted the retailer. This time Lucille was informed that the retailer hadn't reissued her bill because they were waiting for their billing system to be updated with the new tariffs. Lucille was upset that she hadn't been told this earlier and she returned to EWON for help.
Lucille told EWON her solar installation was large and she estimated that she should have had at least $2,500 applied to her account. She had lost faith in the retailer and their billing system, and was concerned that she would not receive her solar credits.
When EWON contacted the retailer, they advised that Lucille’s particular tariff combination of a controlled load, time of use, green options and solar was not compatible with their billing system. There would not normally be such a long delay in setting up a new tariff arrangement, but they were in the process of implementing a new billing system and there was a freeze on any changes being made until it was fully tested.
The retailer agreed that other customers would also be affected by the problem and advised EWON that they would write to all of them with an explanation. After the retailer eventually implemented the changes to the billing system, they issued Lucille with an amended bill that showed her account was $4,755 in credit.
By this time, Lucille had transferred back to her previous retailer, so she was issued with a refund cheque.
June's story: Delayed payment of solar feed-in tariff
Delays applying the solar feed-in tariff and poor customer service lead customer to EWON
June has solar panels installed on her house and is entitled to the 60 cent/kWh feed-in tariff, but when she received her energy bill she found the rebate was not included. She tried contacting her energy provider on several occasions and experienced long delays; she spoke to a number of staff in different departments; she was advised they would investigate the matter but they did not call her back.
June called EWON for help. She complained about the poor customer service provided by her energy provider and explained she was seeking an update on their investigation. During this period June received another bill with a late fee, which also did not include the rebate.
EWON contacted her energy provider, who explained that the delay applying the rebate was due to a billing delay arising from uncertainty about data received from the network. June’s retailer clarified the data with the network and then promptly applied the 60c feed-in tariff and issued her a new bill, which showed her account was now $730 in credit.
Ray's story: unusually high gas bill
Retailer incorrectly debits customer for a $2076 disputed bill
His quarterly gas bills were usually around $100, so when Ray received a bill of $2076 he called his retailer immediately. As the bill was unusually high, the retailer scheduled a meter inspection.
The retailer could not specify a time for the inspection and as the meter was located inside his apartment, Ray’s wife took a day off work. When the meter reader hadn’t arrived by 4pm she called the retailer. While they assured her the meter reader would attend, no-one came to read the meter.
Ray complained to senior staff in the company about what happened. They apologised and offered to reschedule the inspection. A few days later, on a Friday, the retailer debited $2076 from Ray’s account. This left his account overdrawn and his family without money for the weekend. On Monday, Ray called the retailer who said they would refund the money the next day.
Ray waited five days but when he didn’t receive a refund he called EWON for help.
We contacted the retailer who organised Ray’s refund. They acknowledged their poor service and the inconvenience to Ray and his family, and offered him a goodwill gesture of $200.
The next day Ray confirmed he had received the refund and he was satisfied with the retailer’s response.
He said he would wait for the outcome of the retailer’s investigation of his disputed high bill, and contact EWON again if he was not satisfied.
Paul's story: unusually high gas bill
Customer provides evidence but retailer fails to investigate problem
Paul was surprised to receive a quarterly gas bill for $3315 as his bills were usually around $230. For a year Paul tried to sort out his high bill complaint with the retailer however when he received a disconnection notice, he called EWON for help.
Paul said he lives in a separately metered duplex and around eight years ago his neighbour’s gas meter was changed. Paul believed that at some point the retailer started incorrectly billing him for his neighbour’s meter, as the DPI* and reading on his high bill didn’t match his meter.
Each time Paul called the retailer to alert them to the error, he was referred to a different department. Paul said no-one he spoke to could fix the problem or organise for his meter to be checked though he requested this. Paul had even written to the retailer’s General Manager and provided photographs of the meter, but he had received no response. While he tried to sort out the problem, Paul paid what he thought was reasonable towards his account.
EWON contacted the retailer who said that the meter needed to be physically checked and they would organise for the distributor to do this. The distributor’s check confirmed that Paul’s account had been incorrectly attached to his neighbour’s meter. Given their error, the retailer adjusted Paul’s billing history, waived part of his bill as a goodwill gesture and sent him a letter of apology.
We highlighted to the retailer that Paul’s neighbour would now be faced with an unexpected high bill as he had been underpaying for his gas consumption for around 15 months. The retailer assured EWON that they would personally contact Paul’s neighbour to explain about the backbill and offer him a payment plan.
*Delivery Point Identifier
Georgia's story: delayed meter read and billing
Customer can’t get meter read to finalise her account
Georgia received a high gas bill so she contacted her retailer and they agreed to organise a meter read and put a hold on her account.
When confirming the location of the meter, the retailer insisted that the meter was located inside Georgia’s unit and she would need to be at home for the reading to happen. She told the retailer she didn't think the meter was located inside her apartment, but in order to sort out the high bill, she agreed to be at home for the meter reader.
The meter reader failed to attend the agreed appointment so Georgia organised another time with the retailer. The meter reader failed to arrive for the second meter reading.
Georgia had decided to move and contacted the retailer to arrange a final reading. She waited at the unit until midnight on the designated date, but again the meter reader failed to arrive. Frustrated, Georgia arranged for keys to the apartment to be left with the building manager so the meter reader could access the meter the next business day.
Several weeks passed and Georgia hadn't received a final bill, so she contacted EWON for help. Georgia said the retailer hadn't sent a bill, but she kept receiving phone calls and SMS messages from them regarding payment of her account, which had now exceeded $900.
EWON's investigation prompted the retailer to check Georgia's account. They consequently found that the distributor had not informed them that Georgia's hot water meter was in fact read remotely by a meter data logger, so the meter reader did not need to have access to her unit. The meter data logger had become misaligned, so estimated reads had been recorded.
Once this was realigned, and an actual meter read was obtained, the retailer was able to bill her on her actual usage. This was much lower than the estimates had been.
The retailer recognised the considerable inconvenience this had caused Georgia and as a goodwill gesture they offered to waive a significant part of her charges. The combination of the rebilling and the waived charges reduced Georgia's final account from $2,030 to $700. Georgia was satisfied with the retailer's response and was relieved that the matter was sorted.
Mei's story: multiple bill error
Error results in customer receiving seven bills at once
Mei lives in an apartment and uses gas for her hot water and cooking. During the first year, her gas bills were around $100 per quarter. When she received a bill for $1,900, she thought something was wrong so she called her retailer who promised to look into it.
Mei called the retailer again every month for the next 9 months, to check the progress of their investigation. She then received seven bills all at once for over $1,500 with a letter stating she had been previously undercharged.
Mei disputed the accuracy of the bills, however the retailer maintained the bills were reasonable. Mei was not satisfied with the retailer's response and asked EWON to check the accuracy of the bills.
EWON contacted the retailer who explained that Mei’s hot water bill is based on the readings from the hot water meter inside her apartment, which are transmitted to the network distributor via a meter data logger. The meter data logger had come out of alignment, which caused Mei's bills to be estimated, but in fact the estimates were much lower than what her actual usage had been.
After the error was fixed, the retailer sent Mei seven adjusted bills based on her actual usage. The retailer acknowledged Mei's confusion and that they could have explained the billing adjustments better to her. Given this, the retailer offered Mei an extension of time to pay, a $50 goodwill gesture and to waive part of the charges which would leave Mei with a balance of $893.
We explained the offer to Mei, who was satisfied with the retailer's response.
Emily's story: meter misread
Meter misread leads to significant billing error
Emily lives alone in an apartment with a common hot water system. About two years ago, she began to receive abnormally high gas bills. She contacted her retailer because she thought something was wrong. The retailer said they would send someone to check the meter, but Emily had to follow up with them a number of times before a technician finally came to check it.
The results of the test showed there was no fault with the meter. Emily continued to receive very high bills and then she began to receive disconnection notices for different amounts.
After a year of trying to resolve her high bill problem with the retailer by phone, Emily put her complaint in writing. When they failed to respond again, Emily lost faith in the retailer’s ability to resolve the problem and she contacted EWON for help.
Emily explained she had sold her apartment and was due to move out shortly, so she needed the matter sorted quickly. She had recently received a letter of demand for $32,458 from the retailer and she was concerned that her credit rating would be affected.
EWON’s investigation found that the hot water readings had been incorrectly transposed onto the meter reading database, with one extra digit being recorded. This meant Emily had been billed for gas use equivalent to around 5 million litres of hot water. The retailer acknowledged the significant error and amended the billing, which reduced the balance on Emily’s account from $32,661 to $520. The retailer confirmed that Emily had not been credit default listed and as a goodwill gesture, they waived the remaining $520 on her account.
Jarrod's story: Small business faces billing problems
Small business owner loses confidence in his retailer’s billing accuracy
Jarrod is a small business owner and receives his electricity bill every month. He discovered two of the payments he made did not appear on his electricity account. He made enquiries with his electricity company but they were unable to provide an explanation.
Not long after, Jarrod received a disconnection notice. Frustrated with the poor customer service and still unsure that his payments had been properly credited to his account, he called EWON and requested an investigation.
EWON contacted Jarrod’s electricity company and placed a hold on his account. To avoid a build up of arrears Jarrod was encouraged to pay what he considered was a reasonable sum towards his account.
EWON reviewed the billing information and found that his electricity company had reversed a number of bills and one of his payments was applied much later. Both of his disputed payments had been applied to his account and the outstanding amount he owed was $2,600.
Jarrod was satisfied that his billing was correct and agreed to electricity payment arrangement of $100 per fortnight with current accounts paid by the due date.
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.