Aletha's story: sewerage overflow problem persists for years
Sewage overflow in heavy rain affects Aletha’s home and neighbourhood for years
Whenever there was heavy rainfall, the sewerage system in Aletha’s neighbourhood would overflow from a manhole in the street. This would cause raw sewage to flood the outside areas of the property where Aletha lives with her 92 year old mother and cause their toilet, shower and basins to fail.
For many years, Aletha had been trying without success to have the water provider resolve this issue at her mother’s property. The problem was causing significant disruption and health concerns; the overflow events would force them to wade through ankle-deep sewage to vacate the house for several days at a time. Aletha was aware that a number of neighbours were also affected. The water provider had advised Aletha five years earlier that the overflow problem was caused by an elbow in their pipework and that plans for an extension to the system to address the issue were approved, with funding pending.
Aletha explained that she was at her wits’ end when she called EWON for assistance.
We discussed the matter with the water provider, who confirmed they were aware of the issue affecting Aletha and her neighbours. They explained that the completion of remedial works would require development and approval of drawings, submissions and a business plan. While they regretted the impact of the overflows on the community, they said it was not possible for the company to reliably indicate a timeframe for the work.
We noted that although the problem had been identified back in 2007, no progress appeared to have been made. The provider acknowledged this and the matter was reviewed. Several months later, the remedial works were commenced.
Lesley's story: disputed estimated billing and solar feed-in tariff
Dog-owner Lesley disputes the accuracy of her bills and the application of solar credits
Lesley repeatedly contacted her electricity retailer to dispute the accuracy of her bills and to query the application of solar credits to her account. When no one got back to her and the problem remained unresolved, she came to EWON.
Lesley said that she hadn’t received any credits and her bills were high because they were over estimates. She explained that she had been receiving estimated bills because her meters are behind locked gates and she has dogs. The retailer had told her they could contact her prior to the meter reading so she could make herself available to provide access, but she hadn’t heard from them. Her attempts to raise these matters directly with the retailer had continued to fail and she was now facing disconnection.
Our discussion with the retailer confirmed that Lesley was at risk of disconnection for arrears of $1040. The retailer also explained that Lesley’s solar installation was on net metering, so she was not eligible to receive a solar rebate, but instead was receiving the benefit of free consumption for the energy her installation generated. They placed Lesley’s account on hold while we continued our investigation of the billing accuracy. We encouraged Lesley to make payment of an amount she considered reasonable in order to avoid large arrears from accruing and to show good faith.
We explained to Lesley that it is the responsibility of the customer to provide access to the meter and that field officers are not required to issue prior notice of a meter reading. We also advised her that for a cost of around $40 per read she could book meter reading visits at times convenient for her to provide access, and that this way she could avoid receiving estimated bills. We also checked that she has a net rather than gross meter installed and discussed the household’s appliances and consumption patterns to help her identify any obvious reasons for high consumption.
From our investigation it appeared that the metering information was appropriately applied and Lesley’s bills accurately represented her consumption, which had reduced due to the electricity generated by her solar installation.
Lesley was not fully satisfied that the billing was right and said that she would look at changing companies. We provided Lesley with an investigation report and invited her to call to discuss the report if she wished. We explained the procedure for requesting a review of her complaint if she thought that the outcome was incorrect and advised her that the retailer had issued a payment extension of one month.