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21 July 2021

Power complaints surge

Billing and customer service continue to top complaints to dispute scheme.

A customer who received a $1000 back bill after her electricity company didn’t read her meter is among 11,161 people who took their case to Utilities Disputes in the past year.

The customer thought her automatic payments were covering her power bills. However, the smart meter at her property had stopped working and her electricity company sent estimated bills for six months. It then stopped sending her bills for a year before telling her she owed $1000.

The company also switched her to another provider without her permission.

When the woman lodged a complaint with Utilities Disputes – a free complaints service for consumers – she was awarded a $600 refund.

Utilities Disputes found the company hadn’t followed its own terms and conditions and provided poor customer service. The company’s contract only allowed it to estimate bills for four months and required it to give 30 days’ notice if it wanted to switch a customer.

Utilities Disputes commissioner Mary Ollivier said it’s seen a 43 percent increase in cases since Covid-19. Electricity and gas complaints comprised 89 percent of complaints the service received in the year to June.

Billing and customer service were the most common issues. That mirrors findings from our latest electricity satisfaction survey, which found one in five consumers had been on the receiving end of poor customer service. Fifteen percent had also experienced problems with incorrect bills in the past year.

If you’re not being treated fairly by your power company, don’t put up with it. If the company won’t sort things out, you can take the matter to Utilities Disputes.

All electricity retailers and distributors must belong to the service and are bound by its decisions. Utilities Disputes can consider compensation claims up to $50,000 or up to $100,000 if the company agrees.

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