Debt and credit rating
Miriam's story: water supply not reinstated due to credit history
Miriam and Dave’s water is restricted due to non-payment and they are denied a payment plan
For three weeks the water supply at Miriam’s home was restricted due to non-payment of the $1120 owing on the account. Miriam and her husband Dave were experiencing financial hardship as Miriam’s work hours had been reduced and Dave’s employment had also been downgraded. Miriam considered they could manage a weekly payment plan of $150 and put this to the water company. When she contacted EWON, she explained that the company had declined any payment arrangement and required payment in full before they would reinstate the water supply.
EWON contacted the water company to discuss the case. We were advised that there was a history of debt collection on the account, that Miriam and Dave had been on the hardship program previously but hadn’t kept up payments and that their supply had been also been restricted before due to non-payment. On this basis the company required full payment of arrears.
We negotiated with the water provider, who agreed to reinstate the supply on payment of half of the total amount owing and a payment plan of $150 per week. Miriam and Dave accepted this arrangement and understood that they would be required to pay any debt in full if they were restricted again for non-payment.
We referred Miriam and Dave to a community agency where they could apply for PAS* vouchers and they were pleased to have their water supply restored.
* PAS – The water Payment Assistance Scheme providing vouchers and/or account credit to assist customers of certain water providers if they are experiencing financial hardship.
Iqbal's story: Customer doesn't receive final energy account at his new address
Customer is credit listed after not receiving final energy account at his new address
When he obtained his credit report, Iqbal discovered he had been credit listed nearly a year earlier for a dual fuel debt of $208. He was unsure why the listing had occurred as he was unaware of any amount outstanding on the account.
Iqbal contacted the energy supplier to resolve the matter, but with only limited English skills he found the experience frustrating and upsetting. Iqbal was able to explain that he had not been aware of the outstanding debt, and he then paid the $208.
When he spoke to the supplier again, he learned that the debt was for his previous address. He believed he had taken the correct steps to finalise his account and update his contact details when he moved, and he confirmed that the new address on the supplier’s record was correct. However, it had come to his attention when he received a call from another credit provider advising of his arrears that there was a problem with his mail redirection and that some of his mail had gone missing.
Iqbal took his case to a credit repair agent, who in turn came to EWON to resolve the matter.
It emerged that the $208 debt included a $50 early termination fee for transferring the gas account, but that this transfer never occurred. On the basis that the listed debt amount was therefore incorrect, the supplier agreed to remove the listing. They also issued a refund cheque for this amount in Iqbal’s favour.
Beverly's story: administrative error leads customer to fear credit listing
Gas retailer’s system testing error leads to debt collection action
Beverly’s husband received a final notice from a debt collection agency demanding payment of $344 for an unpaid gas account. The letter advised that failure to pay might result in legal proceedings or credit listing. Beverly called the collection agency, who told her the file had been withdrawn by her gas supplier and that she didn’t need to make the payment. She asked to have this put in writing as she was worried about being credit listed, but the agency referred her to the gas retailer.
Her gas supplier said there was no record of why the debt referral had occurred and that she should write to the customer service department to request confirmation in writing that she wasn’t liable for the $344 payment. Beverly did as advised and came to EWON for help when she heard nothing back from the supplier. We referred her back to the supplier at a higher level, but she returned when she still did not receive a response to her request.
From our investigation it emerged that during a system testing activity a small number of accounts were modified in the live system in error, which resulted in the referral to the debt collector. The retailer apologised and assured Beverly that there was no existing debt and that her husband would not be credit listed. They also applied a $50 customer service gesture to Beverly’s husband’s account.
Bert's story: Lost EAPA vouchers results in debt collection
Lost EAPA vouchers results in debt collection
Bert, a pensioner, was struggling to pay his electricity bill of $99, which was a month overdue. He approached a community agency for help and they provided him with three EAPA vouchers ($90). As his retailer didn’t allow for payment of these vouchers at the post office, he sent the vouchers by mail as required.
A month later Bert received a notice from a debt collection agency, advising that he needed to pay $157 or he would be credit default listed.
Bert contacted EWON for help. He said he had mailed vouchers before and was sure he had sent them to the correct address.
We contacted Bert’s retailer who acknowledged that they had experienced problems with lost vouchers. The retailer offered to waive the amount owing on the account and to stop any further debt collection action. Bert was satisfied with the outcome.
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.
Sam's story: Customer's request denied due to poor payment history
Customer’s request denied due to poor payment history
Sam was having trouble obtaining a home loan because he had been credit default listed for an electricity debt of $238. He had been unaware of the default listing, and paid the debt owing when he found out about it. Sam thought the listing would be removed after he paid the debt, however it wasn’t, and he called EWON for help.
Sam said he found out about the default listing when he recently applied for a home loan. The listing was due to expire in a few months as it related to an address he lived at over five years ago, but he needed to secure finance earlier.
To ensure the retailer had followed the correct procedure, we asked Sam about his previous account. Sam acknowledged that he hadn’t called the retailer to close his account and he hadn’t provided them with a forwarding address.
EWON contacted the retailer to discuss Sam’s complaint and to retrieve his billing history. The retailer’s records showed Sam had paid the initial security deposit for his electricity account. However, Sam hadn’t paid anything towards his account after this, leaving the retailer with a debt of $238. The retailer had then sent six warning letters addressed to Sam at the old property, before proceeding to debt collection and the default listing. Given Sam’s poor payment history, the retailer declined to remove the listing early.
We explained to Sam that according to the law, when a bill is 60 days overdue, the retailer is required to send one written notice to the last known address. If payment is not received within 60 days, they can default list a customer if the amount owing is over $100. We also advised Sam that a retailer is not obliged to remove a credit listing after the debt has been paid. Given these circumstances, unfortunately EWON was not able to take any action.
Anne's story: Loan denial leads to default discovery
Loan denial leads to default discovery
Anne discovered she had been credit listed for an electricity debt of $189 when an application she made for a loan was rejected. She wanted her credit history cleared so she would not be prevented from obtaining credit in the future, so she contacted the retailer and paid the debt. The retailer suggested that she contact a credit repair agent to see about getting the listing removed.
The credit agent engaged by Anne approached the retailer on her behalf, but was unsuccessful in obtaining their agreement to request removal of the listing. The agent then brought the case to EWON.
EWON contacted Anne to confirm that she agreed to being represented by the credit repair agent. We explained that consumers can deal with us directly and that EWON’s service is free. Anne decided to withdraw her permission for the agent to advocate for her and requested that EWON deal directly with her in resolving the matter.
EWON investigated the circumstances around the credit listing. The debt was for an account closed by Anne when she moved interstate. Anne said that she called the retailer to close the account and to request the final bill be sent to her forwarding address, which she provided. Anne said she received no mail or phone call about the account and disputed the default listing on the basis that the prescribed notice was not issued.
The retailer confirmed they had received her request and had mailed the final account to her new address, as provided. Their records showed a number of attempts had been made to contact Anne by phone and mail when payment was not received and that they had acted in accordance with regulatory requirements.
EWON advised Anne that there did not appear to be any basis upon which the retailer would be required to remove the credit listing as it was compliant with the obligations of a credit provider. Unfortunately, Anne had already paid a non-refundable up front fee of $950 to the credit repair agent, so she was left with the default listing on her credit report and a $950 dent in her savings.
Yasmin's story: Transfer delayed for months
Transfer delayed for months
Yasmin, a single mother with two children, had been credit listed by two different energy companies and one telecommunications company for debts accrued with her ex-partner following the failure of their business. The credit repair agent quoted a $990 up front fee and $990 for each listing that was removed.
When the telecommunications listing was removed, the credit repair agent requested that she pay $2,000 up front. The credit repair agent threatened to credit list her when she said that she couldn’t afford this, however, she then entered into an $80 per week payment arrangement.
Yasmin decided to deal directly with EWON after we contacted her to explain that she didn’t need to use a credit repair agent. Yasmin reported that the credit repair agent was confusing to deal with. A voice recording was made of her agreeing to the contract with the credit repair agent. However, when she received a written copy of the contract and recording she noted that the recording stopped at each point where she had questioned anything that she was unsure about.
Yasmin wanted the energy company to review whether there was any basis for listing her debt in the first place. EWON referred Yasmin’s complaint to a senior customer service representative at the company and invited her to contact EWON again if she wasn’t satisfied with the company’s response.
Sonia's story: Disconnection for non payment
Customer disconnected after non-payment of bills
Sonia relies on a pension for her income and she lives in public housing with her four children. She was unable to make payments on her electricity account due to financial hardship and her supply was disconnected. With arrears of over $2,500, she was very stressed about her financial situation and contacted Lifeline, who referred her to EWON.
Sonia explained the retailer had offered to put her on their hardship program some months before, but she could not afford to pay the $166 per fortnight they were asking.
We contacted the retailer about reconnection. The retailer said that Sonia had a poor payment history and she had initiated a transfer to a different company. Given this, they would only reconnect if she made an upfront payment of $850 and saw a financial counsellor.
Sonia advised EWON that her application to switch her account to another electricity retailer had been declined due to her credit history. We explained the retailer's offer to Sonia and suggested she seek EAPA* assistance. Sonia agreed with the offer and went to see a financial counsellor. The financial counsellor advised the retailer that Sonia could afford to pay a maximum of $65 per week towards her electricity account.
Sonia’s power was restored the day after the disconnection and she was able to obtain EAPA from two agencies to help reduce her debt. Her retailer placed her on their Hardship Program, where she will receive assistance in managing her account.
*Energy Accounts Payment Assistance
Ajaya's story: Customer credit listed in error
Customer credit listed for account she never opened
Ajaya received a letter from a debt collector demanding payment for a $572 electricity debt with Retailer A at a unit she lived in two years ago. She called Retailer A, explaining that she had held a gas account with them but not an electricity account. She also sent her electricity bill from Retailer B to support this and did not hear from Retailer A again.
A year later, Ajaya discovered she had been credit listed.
When she called EWON, Ajaya was upset. She complained that there must be confusion with the billing address and said that she wanted the credit listing removed.
Through EWON’s investigation, it was discovered that Retailer A had not received the supporting documents Ajaya had sent to them. They acknowledged that the debt of $572 was incurred after Ajaya had moved out and they explained that they had created an account in her name at her previous address in error.
They removed the credit listing, sent Ajaya an apology letter and made a $500 customer service gesture for the inconvenience caused.
Serena's story: Credit listing discovered when loan is rejected
Failure to close an account in difficult times leads to credit default listing
Serena found out that she had been credit listed for an old electricity debt when she moved into a new property and applied for credit with a furniture company. Her application was declined due to a credit default listed by her previous electricity retailer. She contacted the electricity company and found the listing related to an outstanding bill of $300 for a period between 2006 and 2007.
Serena said that she did not live at the address at the time: she moved out in 2005 and in fact was in custody from late 2006 to early 2008. She presented documents to confirm this, but her electricity company advised her there was nothing they could do as her bills were over 12 months old.
Serena contacted EWON for help.
EWON contacted the energy company who said that because Serena had failed to close the account she was responsible for the debt. However, they acknowledged her difficult circumstances at the time were such that she would not have been aware of the arrears or the listing, so they agreed to remove the listing against her name.
Carmelo's story: credit default is recorded against a disputed account
Carmelo challenges his credit default listing over a disputed electricity bill
When Carmelo received a final electricity bill for $1550 from his former retailer, he disputed it with the company. The amount was about double his usual bill and just before it was issued Carmelo had been advised by the network provider that they had found a fault with his meter and replaced it.
In good faith, Carmelo paid 50% of the amount owing on his account, which he considered represented his actual use, but the balance was sent to a debt collector before the disputed bill was resolved. Carmelo continued to dispute the bill with the retailer and the debt collector, maintaining that it reflected a faulty meter reading.
When his application for a credit card was declined, he then discovered he had been credit default listed for the $775 outstanding on the bill. Carmelo asked EWON to investigate the accuracy of the bill and to review the basis of the credit default listing.
Our investigation found that the retailer had attempted to find out from the distributor if a meter fault had in fact been detected and, if so, to obtain a revised reading to adjust Carmelo’s final bill. However, the network had been unwilling to provide the information because the site had transferred to another retailer.
While raising this issue with the network provider, EWON requested that the retailer consider removing the credit default listing on the grounds that there appeared to be sufficient doubt about the bill’s accuracy. The retailer withdrew the listing and in the meantime the network provided revised readings to the retailer. This updated meter data reduced Carmelo’s balance owing to just $63 once the prompt payment discount was applied, and the retailer offered to waive this amount.
Carmelo was satisfied with the outcome.