UTILITIES DISPUTES CASE NUMBER 70568
Recommendation - upheld
On behalf of ABC Ltd, Mr Z complained the electricity retailer:
- Billed ABC Ltd on the incorrect tariff since May 2016 and this meant the bills were higher than they should be
- Did not recognise Mr Z’s complaints in 2016, or his complaint on 27 January 2017
- Disconnected the electricity at ABC Ltd on 13 March 2017
Mr Z said he believed the rate was wrong because:
- His bills were more expensive than the previous owner’s bills, and he gave a copy of the previous owner’s bill to prove this
- Another retailer and Mr Z’s electrician told Mr Z that ABC Ltd should be on a different pricing plan
Mr Z said the retailer told him ABC Ltd was paying the same amount as the previous owner of the business.
The retailer said it was billing ABC Ltd on the correct rate, and had told Mr Z how he could change to a cheaper rate by getting the capacity of the electricity supply downgraded. The retailer said it billed the previous owner differently under its contract with the previous owner, but did bill the previous owner on the same network pricing.
Utilities Disputes facilitated a face-to-face meeting with the retailer and Mr Z. Acknowledging it should have sent another disconnection letter before the disconnection, the retailer offered:
- A payment of $1,000, or
- ABC Ltd could switch away without paying the contract break fee (about $3,000)
The parties could not agree and asked the Commissioner to recommend a settlement.
The Commissioner recommended the retailer pay ABC Ltd $500 and waive the disconnection fees. The Commissioner recommended this because:
- The retailer was billing ABC Ltd correctly
- The retailer gave poor customer service
- Paying ABC Ltd $500 and waiving the disconnection fees was fair and reasonable in recognition of the poor customer service
The retailer billed ABC Ltd correctly
The Commissioner said the retailer was billing ABC Ltd correctly because it billed ABC Ltd on the correct rate. The Commissioner also said ABC Ltd did not misrepresent what the retailer and ABC Ltd had agreed in writing.
The retailer gave poor customer service in three ways
The poor customer service included:
- The retailer did not recognise Mr Z’s complaint, even though he complained eight times between July 2016 and March 2017
- The retailer could have told Mr Z sooner about the option to downgrade the electricity supply to reduce the bills
- The retailer disconnected ABC Ltd outside the timeframe stated on its disconnection notice, so the notice was not valid
Paying ABC Ltd $500 and waiving the disconnection fees was fair for the poor customer service
The Commissioner said the amount of $500 and waived disconnection fees were fair because:
- The retailer prolonged the process and created inconvenience for Mr Z by not recognising Mr Z’s complaint
- The retailer did not give the required notice before disconnecting ABC Ltd on 13 March 2017
- The disconnection lasted 26-27 hours over a Monday afternoon and Tuesday morning on days ABC Ltd would otherwise have been open for business
Mr Z did not accept the recommendation. This meant the retailer did not need to comply with the recommendation.