UTILITIES DISPUTES CASE NUMBER 72286
Outcome     Recommendation - upheld

The Complaint
Mr A wanted trees on his property cleared. Previously he declared no interest in the trees so needed to contact the distributor about the work. An electricity pole was also in the middle of the trees. 
Mr A called the distributor regarding a date for the tree clearing. He said on the day the work was scheduled, the distributor was late. Mr A said his contractor charged him an additional $2,372.75 because of the distributor. 
The distributor said it completed the vegetation clearing within 30 minutes and it was able to do the work without disconnecting supply to Mr A. It said it did not believe the work impacted Mr A’s contractor doing its job. 
Mr A raised a complaint about the distributor through the District Court. The distributor did not tell Mr A about Utilities Disputes. It said it understood the complaint was about tree maintenance, not lines services, so was outside Utilities Disputes jurisdiction. The District Court said it did not have jurisdiction to hear the complaint and referred Mr A to Utilities Disputes. 
The Outcome

The parties could not resolve the complaint and asked the Commissioner to recommend a settlement. 

Proposed recommendation

  • The Acting Commissioner upheld the complaint and recommended the distributor pay  Mr A $250. He said:
  • the distributor communicated adequately;
  • there was no evidence of a causal relationship between the distributor’s communication and the additional $2,372.75 Mr A’s contractor charged him;
  • $250 was fair and reasonable for Mr A not being referred to Utilities Disputes. 

Communication
The Acting Commissioner said he was satisfied the distributor communicated adequately with Mr A. He reviewed the job reports and file notes. He concluded the distributor confirmed it would send someone to the property and the date it would attend. 

Causal relationship
The Acting Commissioner said he could not find a causal relationship between the additional amount Mr A’s contractor charged him, and the work done by the distributor. He reviewed the quotation given by the contractor and the final invoice. The Acting Commissioner said there was no information on the invoice to show why the difference in price. The Acting Commissioner requested information from the contractor to show why the invoice price was different to the original quotation, but the contractor did not respond. 
The Acting Commissioner said a quote is normally an estimate for the work rather than a fixed price. He said it may be the work took longer than planned, resulting in additional charges. The Acting Commissioner said there was no evidence presented showing the additional time was caused by the distributor. 
Fair and reasonable for not referring
The Acting Commissioner said it was fair and reasonable for the distributor to pay Mr A $250 for not referring him to Utilities Disputes. He said any work done by the distributor fell within Utilities Disputes’ jurisdiction and the distributor should have referred Mr A to the office when the complaint was not resolved. 

Response
The distributor accepted the proposed recommendation. 
Mr A rejected the proposed recommendation. He said he still believed the distributor did not communicate adequately. Mr A said he understood the contractor’s quotation was fixed, not an estimate. He said he waited for the distributor to start the job, which caused delays for his contractor. Mr A said the District Court did not reject his complaint but said it was out of jurisdiction. 

Recommendation

The Commissioner confirmed the Acting Commissioner’s proposed recommendation and recommended the distributor pay Mr A $250. 
The Commissioner confirmed the complaint was within her jurisdiction. She said she could consider complaints about any aspects of the distributor’s business. 
The Commissioner said it was appropriate the complaint was referred by the District Court. 
The Commissioner said communication by the distributor was adequate under the circumstances and she received no further evidence to show otherwise. 
The Commissioner did not receive any further information about the quotation and invoice from the contractor. She said as the contractor would not discuss the complaint, she could not confirm if the work by the distributor had any impact on the quotation. The Commissioner said the evidence provided did not show any causal link between the distributor’s work and the final invoice. 

Both parties accepted the recommendation and the Commissioner closed the file.