Outcome     Recommendation - upheld

The Complaint

Mr A subdivided his property and built a house on the rear section. In February 2016, he asked the distributor to connect electricity to the new house. The distributor did not log the request. 
In April 2016, Mr A contacted the distributor again and the distributor gave a quote for the work. Mr A asked the distributor questions about the quote. At the end of July 2016, the quote expired. When Mr A asked for a new quote the cost had increased by $4,000.
Mr A complained the distributor:

  • Did not log his request for the connection, causing delays
  • After giving a quote, did not answer his questions about the scope of the work and the cost before the quote expired
  • Increased the cost by $4,000 even though the scope of the work did not change

The distributor said:

  • It recognised it did not log the job in February, and sent Mr A a cheque for $100 as a goodwill gesture
  • The quote expired because Mr A did not accept it
  • The contractor discussed the quote with Mr A several times but he did not accept the explanation
  • The cost of the quote rose mainly because of increased requirements from the local transport authority

Mr A said he did not bank the cheque and it expired. 

Mr A and the distributor took part in a Utilities Disputes conciliation conference. At the conference they agreed:

  • The distributor would give a further breakdown of the quote
  • Mr A would consider the quote and, if accepted, would pay

The distributor gave a further breakdown and Mr A paid the amount quoted. However, Mr A did not sign the quote acceptance form because he said he wanted the Commissioner to consider his claim for compensation for the delay first. Despite this, the distributor completed the work.

The Outcome

The Commissioner recommended the distributor pay Mr A $1,977.98. This was because:

  • The distributor was partly responsible for the delay in completing the work
  • The distributor gave Mr A poor customer service
  • It was fair for the distributor to pay $1,977.98 for the poor customer service

The Commissioner said the distributor was partly responsible for the delay completing the work, even though it gave Mr A a reasonable explanation in response to his questions. The distributor was partly responsible because it did not treat Mr A’s concerns as a complaint. Treating his concerns as a complaint would mean referring the matter to another staff member and telling Mr A about his right to come to Utilities Disputes. Not doing this meant Mr A lost the opportunity to resolve his concerns before the quote expired and the cost increased. 
The instances of poor customer service included when:

  • The distributor did not log the job in February 2016
  • The distributor did not respond to a call and email from Mr A
  • During a phone call, the distributor’s representative was argumentative and would not accept the complaint by phone

The payment of $1977.98 was fair because of the impact of the delay and poor customer service on Mr A. The amount represented half the cost increase plus $350 for the poor customer service.
Both parties accepted the recommendation.