Caroline's story: Solar installation by landlord causes cancellation of tenant's account
Solar installation leads to tenant’s account being cancelled
Caroline's landlord contacted her to advise that tradespeople would be attending the property to quote on solar panel installation, but she didn't need to be at home to meet them.
After the tradespeople had been to the house, Caroline came home to find solar panels installed, but no power supply. She called her electricity retailer to report a fault and was told that the account was now in her landlord’s name, so they could not speak with her.
The retailer reconnected the electricity to the property but maintained they could not discuss the transfer of the account with her as she was neither the account holder nor an authorised party. Caroline contacted EWON for help in having her account reinstated.
EWON discussed the situation with the retailer who explained that the account had to be transferred into the landlord’s name in order for the landlord to receive the benefit of the feed-in tariff under the Solar Bonus Scheme. Caroline’s account had automatically been closed as part of this process. The retailer noted that there could only be one account at the property, so the charges could not be split between solar energy generation and usage.
We advised Caroline that as the account was in the owner’s name, he now held responsibility for the charges and that a new tenancy agreement would have to be established should he want her to pay for her consumption. Caroline reported that the owner intended to invoice her for usage. We suggested that Caroline contact a tenant advisory service to discuss this invoicing arrangement.
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.
Matthew's story: Disputed high bill after solar installation
Customer believes solar installation should be generating more energy than his bills show
Matthew had twelve solar panels installed and connected to the grid with a net meter. His first full quarterly bill since the installation showed that his charges came to $586, less a rebate of $90 for the 349kWh in excess electricity his system generated during the period. Matthew disputed the bill as he considered the energy generated by his twelve panels should have substantially reduced the amount he would be paying on his electricity bills.
The energy supplier came out to inspect Matthew’s meter and found the reading was correct. The installers also came out and confirmed that the installation was in working order, however, they expressed surprise Matthew wasn’t saving more on his bills. Still concerned, Matthew contacted EWON seeking a review of the accuracy of his account.
Matthew has a time of use meter, which meant EWON was able to review the amount of energy his household consumed in each period of each day in excess of the amount his solar panels generated, as well as the amount of excess energy fed into the grid in these periods. This data showed that his daily average consumption had decreased significantly in all periods since the solar panels were installed. From the data it also appeared that the energy retailer had calculated Matthew’s bills accurately, applying the correct rates and rebate.
EWON provided a report to Matthew to explain why his billing appeared to be correct and why there were no grounds for further investigation.
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.