The Energy and Water Ombudsman Queensland (EWOQ) is a free, fair and independent dispute resolution service for unresolved complaints with your electricity, gas or water supplier. Before you contact EWOQ with your complaint, you must first try to resolve the problem with your electricty, gas or water company.
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Case studies

Further information:

It is a condition of license that all reticulated (natural) gas providers who supply small retail customers in Queensland are members of EWOQ.

You can make a complaint to EWOQ about any of our members.

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Customer not told about natural gas hot water system

The customer was a tenant in the property for over 18 months and was unaware that there was a natural gas hot-water system in operation. One day, the customer received a ‘Dear Occupier’ letter from the gas retailer, asking the customer to set up an account and pay the amounts owing. After calling the gas retailer, the customer was advised that the hot-water system was connected to the natural gas supply and they were responsible for the costs from the time they moved in. Not pleased with the outcome, the customer contacted EWOQ.

Outcome: On investigation, the gas retailer accepted that they had failed to provide timely notification to the customer regarding the provision of natural gas. The gas retailer agreed to waive the entire bill for the 18 month period, a total of $981.64, and establish an account for the customer who then accepted responsibility for paying the bill in the future.

Unexplained charges for gas services

Routine work was undertaken by the gas distributor at a three-unit residential complex. At some point a gas leak was identified and gas at the customer’s property was disconnected. A gas fitter was contracted to identify the source of the leak, however no leak was detected and the gas supply was restored to the customer’s property. The following week, the customer received an invoice in the mail for $94 relating to the services provided by the gas fitter. The customer contacted his gas retailer to enquire about the charges, however, an explanation could not be provided.

Outcome: On investigation, the distributor acknowledged that during the routine meter change a suspected gas leak was found. The gas supply to the customer’s property was disconnected as a precaution until a gas fitter could attend. The customer had been advised by the distributor’s representative that he would be billed if any work was undertaken on his property by the gas fitter. The gas fitter failed to find any leak however, in the process, the customer’s pilot light was extinguished. The gas fitter assisted the customer to relight the pilot, which involved the removal of wooden panelling around the hot water system and the invoice concerned this service. As a result of EWOQ’s investigation, the gas fitter agreed to waive the invoice for $94.

Increased tariff on amended gas account

In 2014, the customer noticed that he was not receiving the Queensland State Government Aged Pension Concession. He contacted his gas retailer who applied the concession and amended the previous 12 months’ bills. On reviewing the amended bills, the customer noticed that he had been charged at a higher tariff rate than that on the original invoices. On contacting his gas retailer, they were not able to explain the higher tariff rate, which led to him raising a dispute with EWOQ.

Outcome: EWOQ investigated the customer’s complaint and found that his natural gas account was originally established and billed on a business tariff, not a residential one. The retailer advised that this was because the original account had been on a business tariff and had not been changed to a residential tariff when the customer moved into the property. The request by the customer to apply his pension concession prompted the account to revert to a residential tariff, and amended billing reflected the higher tariff rate. As a gesture of good will, the gas retailer applied a credit of $46.67 to the customer’s account, which equated to the difference in the two tariff rates over the amended billing period. The gas retailer additionally applied another credit of $53.33 to the account for the inconvenience experienced, making total credits of $100.

What more can one do?

The customer was planning to demolish her house and had contacted her gas retailer to arrange for the gas service to be disconnected. Prior to the demolition she confirmed with her retailer that the work would take place. When the demolition contractor arrived at the property, he could not commence the demolition work as the gas supply was still connected. The customer contacted EWOQ and requested we contact the distributor to arrange for disconnection of the gas supply.

EWOQ frequently helps customers who are experiencing poor service from their distributors and retailers. In this case, EWOQ contacted the distributor and arranged to get the gas disconnected immediately, allowing the house to be demolished and work on a new home to start on time. In addition, due to the delay in having the service abolished, the retailer offered the customer a goodwill gesture of $100.

When we investigated the issue, the distributor admitted that it was possible no notice had been sent to the customer or his neighbours as the map the distributor used to coordinate advice to residents about planned outages did not include their properties. As a distributor is required to provide at least two business days' notice to residential properties for planned outages the customer was entitled to a Guaranteed Service Level payment. As a result of our intervention, the distributor offered the customer a Guaranteed Service Level payment of $26.00.

Harsh consequences for person in need

A customer entered into a payment plan with her retailer for an outstanding bill of $400. When the customer missed one payment her gas supply was disconnected. The customer advised EWOQ that she had informed her retailer she was experiencing financial hardship but the retailer did not provide any information about its hardship program or the government assistance available through the Home Energy Emergency Assistance Scheme (HEEAS). The customer contacted EWOQ to assist with having her gas supply reconnected as soon as possible, to request that she be considered for the retailer's hardship program together with an application for HEEAS, and to be able to reinstate her payment plan at $50 per fortnight.

EWOQ contacted the retailer and arranged for the customer's gas supply to be reconnected. As a result of our negotiation with the retailer, the retailer also agreed to re-establish the customer's payment plan and discuss with the customer its hardship program. In addition, the retailer agreed to provide the customer with information on the government assistance available through HEEAS for customers experiencing financial hardship.

Wrongful disconnection affects apartment complex

In response to a request from the gas retailer, the gas supply to an entire residential unit complex was disconnected by the distributor. The request was made following a dispute with one of the occupants who had not responded to a letter from the retailer addressed to “Dear Occupant” asking them to settle their account. The owner of the unit complex attempted to have the gas reconnected however the retailer would not do so until gas consumption for the “Dear Occupant” account was paid. The account was only addressed to the street number of the complex and not to any particular unit. The disconnection resulted in 13 residential units and their occupants being without gas for cooking and hot water for two nights.

Outcome: EWOQ arranged to have unit complex reconnected the next day. On investigation, it was found that the request to disconnect the gas meter had previously been rejected by the distributor as it would have affected too many residents. However, due to an error, the distributor completed the disconnection upon a second request from the retailer. It was found that the gas consumption relating to the “Dear Occupant” account was for an unmetered service (gas cook top) most likely for a unit resident who had yet to establish an account. The unit complex owner was advised to engage the services of a gas fitter to identify the source of the gas consumption relating to this account. In addition, the owner was offered a $100 good will gesture from the retailer.

Estimated bills results in huge debt

The customer lived in an apartment complex, and had a natural gas meter that was not easily accessible without prior access arrangements being made with the building manager. On numerous occasions the customer contacted his retailer to make suitable arrangements for an actual meter reading, but with one exception these were unsuccessful. As a result, the customer received estimated bills for nearly three years which eventually led to a bill of $2,152 being received. Frustrated with the situation, the customer contacted EWOQ.

Outcome: EWOQ arranged for a photograph of the gas meter to be provided to the retailer which was accepted as an actual reading. A revised bill for $386 was then issued. Additionally, EWOQ investigated options to provide access to the meter. Details regarding meter access were updated in the retailer’s customer data base and the department responsible for meter reading was contacted to ensure there are no further issues.

Between a rock and a hard place

The customer was building a new house and had contacted her retailer to find out if gas supply was available in her street. The retailer confirmed that there was, and as it would take 20 business days to connect to her house she was advised to call back when the house was nearer to completion and closer to the move-in date. The customer purchased gas appliances and arranged with the builder and plumber/gas fitter to install the necessary fittings. When the customer contacted her retailer again to arrange for the gas supply to be connected, she was advised it would cost $4,000 as there was no gas supply available in her street. As all the appliances had been purchased and work had been undertaken on the building the customer was committed to continuing with the supply.

The customer was left in a difficult position. She could either refuse to connect to gas and be left in possession of appliances she did not need or she could pay the expensive connection fee. The customer acted reasonably in making inquiries of the distributor before purchasing the gas appliances. Had she been correctly advised that gas was not available she may have chosen not to proceed with her purchases. EWOQ considered that it was not fair and reasonable to charge the customer for connection given she had received, and acted on, erroneous advice from the distributor. We took the matter up with the distributor who decided not to charge the customer for her connection.