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Case studies

case study 
1. Lack of transparency about hot water charges

After receiving his first bill, an embedded network customer contacted his retailer to clarify how the hot water charges were calculated. The retailer explained that it was based on the amount of hot water he used, recorded by his individual hot water meter. The retailer also noted that the rate applied to each litre of hot water was determined by the cost of the gas used to heat the water. 

The customer complained to the retailer that there was no transparency for each customer about how much water was used by the whole building or how the price of gas was converted into litres of hot water. The retailer advised the customer that it could not provide all the requested information. However, it explained that the price of hot water was calculated using an estimated common factor obtained from the local area gas distributor. 

The customer complained to EWON as he was not satisfied with the retailer’s explanation of his charges. He agreed to have his complaint referred to the embedded network retailer at a higher level, knowing he could return to EWON if an agreed outcome could not be negotiated. The customer returned to EWON because he was unsatisfied with the response from his energy retailer.

EWON contacted the energy retailer, a member of EWON,  to discuss how the complaint could be resolved and it offered to reduce the rates until the end of the financial year. The retailer also offered to backdate the reduced rates to the date the customer opened the hot water account. The retailer told EWON that it had recently sold the operation of the embedded network to another retailer, and therefore it could not guarantee the new rates after the sale of the network was complete. The customer accepted the reduced rates for hot water as a resolution to the complaint.

 

case study 
2. Confusion over separate electricity, gas and hot water services

After receiving an invoice addressed to the ‘Unit Occupier’, an embedded network customer opened an account with her retailer in July 2018. The bill was for the energy used to heat the hot water and supply charges for the unmetered cook top gas. The customer then received a re-issued bill covering the period from the date of connection (March 2018). 

Using an interpreter, the customer complained to EWON, that the re-issued bills were too high. She was also concerned that her payment of $368.10 was not noted on the bill. The retailer had told her that the billing was based on digital meter data and was correct, however, she remained confused about what charges (electricity, hot water, or cook top gas) were contributing to the higher than expected bill. 

The customer agreed to have her complaint referred to the embedded network retailer, who was a member of EWON, at a higher level, knowing she could return to EWON if an agreed outcome could not be negotiated. The retailer notified EWON that it responded to the customer’s complaint by email on 9 October 2018. 

The customer contacted EWON again on 19 October 2018 because she had not heard from the retailer. The retailer told EWON that the customer’s payment of $368.10 was received on the same day the bill was issued. The retailer also advised EWON that it had engaged the meter data provider to investigate the meter readings following the customer’s complaint. 

The meter data provider provided a photograph of the customer’s meter which confirmed the correct billing of the account. The retailer noted that more information could have been provided to the customer at the first point of contact about how the hot water billing worked. The customer contacted EWON again on 29 January 2019 to advise that the retailer had contacted her and resolved the complaint.
 

 

case study 
3. External dispute resolution critical for resolving billing and metering disputes

A customer had lived at an apartment with an individual hot water meter for four months. Her meter indicated that she had used approximately 9,500 litres of hot water in that time. The customer told EWON that the billing agent for the building had issued her bills showing she was using 4,500 litres per month. The meter readings on the bills she received did not match her reading of the meter. 

The customer contacted the billing agent to complain but did not receive a response for months. The customer also complained that she paid her first bill by direct debit and the billing agent then continued to deduct payments from her account without permission. The billing agent told her that direct debit was the only payment option provided. 

EWON advised her that we were limited in the assistance we could provide as the billing agent providing the hot water service was a not an authorised energy retailer or a member of EWON. The customer provided EWON with her billing information and EWON contacted the billing agent to confirm what action was being taken to address the customer’s complaint. The billing agent said that the customer’s meter was faulty and would be replaced.

The billing agent then contacted the customer and offered her a credit of $300 which would average her hot water usage for the disputed period to 3,000 litres per month.

While the billing agent took some positive action following EWON’s contact, as the complaint was out of jurisdiction, we were not able to ensure the outcome was based on actual consumption and correct metering information.

 

case study 
4. Customer does not qualify  for consumer protections

A customer moved into an apartment with an embedded network and opened an energy account. Four months later, his hot water service was disconnected without notice. He contacted the embedded network retailer who said that he had not opened an account for gas and hot water at the same time as his energy account, and therefore no bills had been issued for 15 months. 

The customer opened a gas and hot water account, was reconnected, and received a backbill for hot water usage for $1,230.66. The customer contacted the embedded network retailer and was told that the bill must be paid within two weeks. The customer complained to EWON that he did not understand how the usage had been calculated or understand why the bill was delayed for 15 months. 

We contacted the embedded network retailer and it noted that there is no specific regulation for backbilling of a hot water service. However, as a good will gesture, it offered to provide the customer with a $464.35 credit to the account, reducing the balance owed to $766.31. We advised the customer of this outcome in writing – again EWON was unable to determine if this was a fair and reasonable outcome.


case study 
5. Inefficient hot water system

A customer living in an apartment with an embedded network complained to EWON about the common hot water service charges he receives. The customer said it was taking one minute to receive hot water after turning on the hot water tap and considered it should take no longer than 15 to 30 seconds. 

The customer complained that he was being charged for significant amounts of cold water due to a poorly designed and inefficient common hot water system. The customer complained to the energy retailer that services the embedded network and he was told that there are no regulations that set standards for the delivery of hot water. 

EWON advised the customer that, as his complaint related to the efficiency of the hot water network in his building, EWON did not have jurisdiction to investigate his complaint further. The customer advised EWON he had also lodged a complaint with the strata and we confirmed this was an appropriate way of exploring resolution.

 

case study 
6. Closing hot water account would also disconnect customers gas supply

The customer lived in a hot water embedded network and was charged for hot water and gas by an authorised energy retailer. He was disputing his hot water charges of $230 for a single month because he was living alone and thought he wasn’t using the average of 450 litres of hot water per day as described on his bill. He asked his retailer to review the bill and for access to his hot water meter. The customer also asked the retailer to disconnect his hot water service because it was unaffordable. The retailer said that if the hot water was disconnected the gas supply to his apartment would also be disconnected.

The customer agreed to have his complaint referred to the embedded network retailer at a higher level, knowing he could return to EWON if an agreed outcome could not be negotiated. He returned to EWON because he was dissatisfied with the review conducted by the retailer. 

EWON contacted the retailer and requested further information about the billing of the customer’s account. The retailer conducted a review and sent a technician to the customer’s building. The technician identified that the customer was being billed for the incorrect hot water meter. He was provided with a credit of $2,298.30 for the incorrect charges and rebilled $851.84 for the correct hot water meter. While this addressed the customer’s affordability complaint, had the customer still sought for disconnection of hot water supply, he would have lost his gas connection.


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