UTILITIES DISPUTES CASE NUMBER 75274
Recommendation - upheld
From 2012 to 2017, Mr A raised a number of concerns about high bills with his retailer. He said he believed he was using the same amount of electricity, but his bills were increasing. Mr A said his neighbour’s bills were lower than his, despite more people living there. Mr A’s daughter said she saw a spike in peak recordings when Mr A was not home. Mr A said the retailer provided him with poor customer service because it did not believe him when he raised his concerns about high bills.
In 2017, an electrician checked the meter and found it was cross-wired with the neighbour’s property. After the retailer investigated, it confirmed Mr A paid for the neighbour’s consumption from 2011 to 2017.
The retailer apologised for the error and said it would take full responsibility for the incorrect billing. It offered a refund of $2106.67 (the amount overpaid). The retailer also offered to top up the refund to $2500 to acknowledge the poor customer service, which was later increased to $3000. Mr A said he would only accept the offer if it was $3500.
The parties could not agree on an outcome and asked the Commissioner to make a decision.
The Commissioner upheld the complaint. She said the retailer should refund Mr A $ 2106.67 for overpaid bills between 2011 and 2017 and pay $1200 for poor customer service.
The Commissioner noted both parties agreed on the over-billed amount and the refund would correct the billing.
The Commissioner said the retailer could have done more to respond to Mr A’s complaint. She said the retailer should have escalated the complaint in 2014 when Mr A raised his concerns a second time. The Commissioner said it was reasonable not to escalate it the first time Mr A called, but after that it should have been referred. She said Mr A was given the same information each time he called, and no additional options were put forward to investigate the high bills. The Commissioner said it was common practice for a customer to be asked to turn off all appliances at a property for a period of time and check recordings. She confirmed Mr A was not asked to do this.
The Commissioner said it was fair and reasonable for the retailer to pay Mr A $1200 for poor customer service. She noted the complaint and the retailer’s actions caused a lot of stress for Mr A.
The retailer accepted the Commissioner’s recommendation. Mr A asked the retailer to change the meter if he accepted the recommendation. The retailer said it could not do this as it was no longer Mr A’s retailer. It said Mr A could ask his new retailer to change the meter and it would cover any costs incurred. Mr A accepted the Commissioner’s recommendation and the offer by the retailer. The Commissioner closed the file.