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 electricity 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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Ongoing issues lead to $108,000 debt

Over a period of three years, a customer had numerous issues with their electricity retailer. The customer moved into their new cafe in December 2013 and contacted their retailer several times over three months to attempt to set up an electricity account. As the customer was so busy running their new business and receiving many bills from all their accounts, setting up the electricity account slipped their mind. In July 2015, another energy provider contacted the customer offering to combine their electricity and gas accounts. The customer agreed to transfer their electricity account and combine their energy billing and received a welcome pack from the new provider. In November 2015, the new provider attended the property advising that the previous retailer requested disconnection of the customer's electricity supply. The customer contacted their old retailer to discover they still held the billing rights, although the customer did not have an active electricity account.

After several attempts to set up the electricity account, the retailer said they would investigate and get back to the customer so that they could arrange a payment plan. After eight months and two further attempts to contact the retailer, the customer still received no response. In July 2016, the customer was contacted again for disconnection. The customer explained the ongoing issues and the received paperwork confirmed their electricity accounts successfully established. The customer was also advised that they would receive bills and be in contact to arrange a payment plan, however, made an immediate payment of $10,000. Another two months passed with no invoice received. In September 2016, the retailer advised the customer they would be disconnected unless full payment was received. The customer once again explained the ongoing issues over the past two years and that they had still not received a bill. The retailer emailed the customer over 12-months of invoices and reiterated that payment was needed immediately. 

During our investigation, we determined that the retailer's billing system can only bill each customer sequentially when they have exact dates and even of who is responsible for a site. It was confirmed an unknown occupant moved out of the site in 2011, but the retailer identified continued unauthorized usage at the property. The retailer searched for the responsible party by conducting an unauthorized consumption investigation including site visits, issuing bills and attempting disconnection. However, it was not until September 2016 that the retailer had evidence of who was responsible for the site and exact periods, so they could establish an account for the customers. The retailer billed the customer in line with the lease commencing in November 2013, leaving an outstanding balance of $108,000. We negotiated a goodwill credit of $5400 and a payment plan over 30 months.

Default listing conciliation

Since 2011, a customer contacted their electricity retailer many times to discuss ongoing billing issues. The retailer offered a credit on the account as a goodwill gesture and negotiated a payment plan. The customer felt the electricity retailer failed to provide adequate information in response to the matters they raised. Later, the electricity retailer default listed the customer and referred them to debt collection. The customer contacted us to help remove the default listing and have the goodwill gesture applied to the account as it had not been actioned by the retailer.

Our investigation confirmed the electricity retailer's actions were in line with the relevant legislation and codes. We facilitated a conciliation meeting between the customer and electricity retailer, during which the retailer acknowledged the handling of the matters raised by the customer over the years could have been dealt with better. They agreed to recall the debt and default listing and also waived outstanding charges of $630.

Competitive electricity rates

A customer moved their business electricity account to another provider with cheaper tariff rates but was not aware they would not be able to return to their previous retailer. When they received their new electricity contract, the prices were 30 percent more than their first contract with that provider. The customer spoke with their electricity retailer but was not able to negotiate a better contract.

Our review of the customer's contract showed the customer was not offered the government gazetted tariff rates for people in the customer's distribution network. Any electricity retailer within the customer's distribution network is required to offer a contract equivalent to the government gazetted rates, as well as offer other rates and discounts. As a result, the customer was offered a contract equivalent to what they would be charged if they were still with their previous electricity retailer. 

Underage customer debt listed

A customer discovered they had been debt listed. They contacted their electricity retailer who told them that they had an amount owing for electricity consumed a few years ago. The customer advised the retailer they were not aware the account was in their name, as they were under 18 years of age at the time and did not give authority or request an account. The customer explained that situation to the retailer who advised age was not relevant. As the customer was unable to get their debt listing removed, they contacted us for help.

Upon investigation, the retailer confirmed the account was established in the customer's name and the bills sent to their confirmed address. They advised a final bill had been issued and the debt listing process was followed due to non-payment. The retailer advised they had followed the correct process in default listing the customer and would not be taking further action to remove the listing. We advised the retailer that a person under the age of 18 cannot be default listed. It was determined that the account had been opened in the customer's name and closed while the customer was a minor. On receiving this advice, the retailer advised us that they would remove the debt listing and waive the outstanding balance. 

Failure to assess solar system

One of the resolutions agreed during a customer's previous investigation was that their energy retailer would contact them to assess the size of their solar photovoltaic (PV) system to ensure it complied with their contract. The customer's contract allowed a 3.3-kilowatt solar PV system, but the amount of credit generated indicated the system was bigger. In the event of an oversized system, the customer only accrues credit on par with a 3.3-kilowatt system. The retailer did not contact the customer until more than a year later to renew their contract. the customer had continued to accrue credits for their solar power input into the grid and the billing reflected this. the customer learned their solar PV system was too large for the contract, but no further mention was made about assessing its size. Two months later their contract expired, so they customer contacted their retailer to request a refund of $2095 in account credits. At this time, the retailer assessed the customer's system to determine they were only entitled to a refund of $106.

During our investigation, it was confirmed he retailer assesses the customer's PV system after their contract expired, instead of more than a year ago as agreed during the last investigation. We agreed with the customer that it was not fair and reasonable to take 465 days to assess the system. the energy retailer refunded the customer the full amount of account credits of $2095. 

High meter read

A customer's bill was much higher than their previous bill, so they contacted their electricity retails who requested they take their own reading of the meter. As the customer's reading was even higher than their bill, they contacted their retailer again who advised that the distributor would attend to check the meter reading. They also advised the customer their direct debit payment would be put on hold pending the outcome of the check reading and any amendment to the bill. When no further contact was received and full payment was direct debited from their bank account, the customer contacted their electricity retailer who advised the check reading had been completed and the original invoice was correct.

Our investigation confirmed the distributor completed a check of the meter reading and provided adjusted meter data to the retailer. The electricity retailer issues the customer an amended invoice based on new data. They refunded the direct debit payment into the customer's bank account and applied a further $100 credit to the customer's account in acknowledgement of the customer service issues. 

Wrongly disconnected

On a number of occasions, a customer tried to transfer their electricity account to their preferred energy provider. Their current energy retailer objected to the transfer request from the customer's preferred provider due to an outstanding debt on the account. The customer paid the debt so the transfer to the new provider could proceed. However, instead of transferring the account, the retailer close the customer's account and disconnected their electricity supply. The customer contacted the energy retailer about the disconnection and requested reimbursement for the loss of perishable items. The electricity retailer advised the customers that someone had requested the disconnection and declined the request for reimbursement.

Our investigation established that disconnection of electricity occurred in error at the time the account was closed by the retailer. We also established the account remained with the energy retailer and had not been transferred to the customer's preferred provider. The electricity retailer acknowledged they had wrongly disconnected the customer and waived the charges listed on the final bill of $270, closing the account with a nil balance. The transfer to the customer's new electricity provider was then completed.

Customer’s account transferred in error

The customer received a ‘final bill’ from her retailer, and thinking that it meant she needed to pay immediately, paid the account. Five months passed without another bill, so the customer contacted her retailer only to be told that her account had been transferred to another retailer. Concerned that she had not authorised the transfer, she contacted the new retailer who advised that they would investigate and get back to her. Later she received a bill addressed to ‘Dear Customer’ for $472. The customer contacted the new retailer on many more occasions to resolve the issue, but her complaint remained unresolved. She then received a notice that the account was on hold, a final bill for $690, and a disconnection notice. Not surprisingly, the customer contacted EWOQ for help.

On investigation, it was found that the new retailer had incorrectly transferred the customer’s account, instead of the neighbour’s property. When this was realised, the retailer set up an account for the customer’s property as a ‘Dear Customer’ account and issued the first $472 bill. As a resolution the new retailer offered the customer a goodwill gesture of a 50 per cent reduction on the amounts owing, leaving $349.19 for the customer to pay. The retailer also arranged for the customer’s account to be transferred back to her preferred retailer.

Account mix up

A business owner claimed he was constantly sent the next door's business account and that the energy supplier kept turning up to disconnect his business claiming he had not paid his security deposit. He then received a high account which he claimed was his neighbour's account. He telephoned the energy supplier several times to advise they had the wrong address in their computer system. The business owner stated he had been at the address for seven years and his neighbour had been there for about 10 years. He said the problem started when he had taken over sole charge of the business and changed the account name. The business owner stated that after changing the name on the account he was sent a request for a new security deposit. When he queried this it was reduced to more than half. He paid the security deposit but when he made further contact with the energy supplier they asked him if he was his neighbour.

When EWOQ contacted the energy supplier it could not determine the correct address from its computer system or from the Council records. It was agreed to send someone to check the meter numbers against the business and the correct street address and update the computer system accordingly. The customer advised that after the energy supplier had checked the meters and corrected his details on the system he did not have any further problems.

Site visit not received

A customer advised that there had been a bad storm in his area and he lost power at his home. The customer noticed his neighbours' lights were still on so he contacted the distributor who suggested he check the switches on his meter board. After the customer checked the switches his power was restored and he subsequently contacted the distributor and advised his power had been restored. The customer later received a bill from his retailer with a charge of $250.00 for a site visit. When the customer contacted his retailer he was advised this was a pass through charge from the distributor. A pass through charge is a charge from the distributor passed directly onto the customer from the retailer. The customer contacted the distributor who advised a crew had attended his premises to restore his power. The customer disputed this and as he had solar PV panels installed at around the same time as the storm, thought the distributor may have had the work orders confused.

We investigated the issue and contacted the distributor to request an explanation for the charge, and documentation regarding the work order. Although the distributor's work crew was in the immediate area the crew did not attend the customer's home to restore his power. As a result, we were able to negotiate with the distributor for a reversal of the pass through charge.

Poor customer service

The customer entered into an agreement with a retailer that included receiving a 10% discount. The customer also requested the account be in her name as her late father had passed away a number of years earlier. When the customer received her account it was in her late father's name and although she had tried to resolve the issue on a number of occasions with her retailer, the retailer would only discuss the account with the account holder (her late father). The customer contacted EWOQ to obtain assistance in cancelling the contract in her father's name and retrospectively transferring her back to her previous retailer.

EWOQ investigated the issue and requested information from the retailer regarding the customer's contract. As a result of our investigation and through negotiation with the retailer, we were able to obtain agreement from the retailer to retrospectively transfer the customer back to her previous retailer. The retailer also waived the remaining bill and offered the customer a goodwill gesture of $100.

Planned outage but no advice

A customer who runs a business from home contacted EWOQ as he and his neighbours did not receive prior notice from the distributor of a planned outage. A planned outage occurs when the distributor undertakes maintenance work on an electricity line or transformer during business hours. When the customer contacted the distributor he was advised that notices had been sent to households affected by the planned outage.

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.

Misinformation given to a customer

After receiving emails from her retailer about alternative solar electricity plans, the customer contacted the retailer to discuss her options. She chose a new plan but only after receiving an assurance from her retailer that she would continue to be billed quarterly. After receiving a bill only one month later, the customer contacted her retailer to ask why she was receiving bills monthly and was told that she had been incorrectly advised about the frequency of the bill. The retailer apologised but said they could not change her billing to quarterly. Not satisfied with this, the customer contacted EWOQ.

EWOQ listened to recordings of phone conversations between the customer and the retailer which confirmed the customer had been told that billing would be quarterly even if she changed plans. The retailer advised EWOQ that they did not have a solar plan available with quarterly billing and could not honour the commitment that had been given. The retailer apologised to the customer and offered a $50 goodwill gesture which the customer accepted. The customer advised she would review the plans on offer and contact the retailer if she wished to change.

Poor service results in big debt

Under a payment plan the customer agreed to pay $100 per fortnight towards his electricity account. The terms and conditions of the payment plan allowed the electricity retailer to adjust the fortnightly repayments in line with the customer’s electricity consumption. The customer found that an adjustment had been made to his automatic payments and he became worried that they would not meet his consumption, resulting in a large bill. The customer contacted his retailer who assured him that the repayments would even out over 12 months. In the next following quarter, fortnightly payments were increased by the retailer because payments had not kept pace with his levels of consumption and a debt had grown. Unable to afford this increase, the customer contacted EWOQ.

On investigation, EWOQ was told that the $100 payments had been too high and had been automatically adjusted to ensure a large credit did not accrue on his account. However the next review of the customer’s repayments did not occur until he was significantly in arrears. The retailer acknowledged that the customer had attempted to increase his payments throughout this time. The retailer provided a $150 good will gesture for the poor customer service and the inconvenience caused to the customer, and a 12 month repayment plan at $40 per fortnight to pay off the balance of $799.

Solar credits not refunded

The customer had a solar system installed on his property and was generating enough electricity to feed back in to the grid and accrue solar credits. Expecting to receive a refund for his solar credits each quarter, the customer contacted his retailer when he didn’t receive a refund in July 2013, following an earlier refund in April 2013. On contacting his retailer he was told that the refund would take 8-10 weeks to issue, however after waiting this length of time the refund was still not received. The customer continued to follow up with the retailer and on each occasion was advised there were administration issues causing a delay. This continued on until January 2015 when, frustrated with the lack of progress, the customer contacted EWOQ for assistance.

On investigation, EWOQ confirmed that the customer had not received any refund since April 2013, despite the customer’s best endeavours to receive the refunds owing. Following repeated requests from EWOQ for the credits to be refunded, the retailer agreed to pay the customer $4,143.91 owed under the Queensland Government Solar Bonus Scheme. After reviewing the conditions of the customer’s contract, the retailer agreed to refund $100 of the retailer’s solar scheme credits, with the balance to remain in credit against the customer’s account until the end of the contract period.

Full solar feed-in tariff restored

The customer had a solar system installed and was receiving the $0.44 per kW Queensland Solar Bonus Scheme feed-in tariff. After deciding to upgrade his system, the customer sent off the required paperwork to his retailer to ensure that he retained his feed-in tariff. Two years later, the customer received a copy of his bill and found that his solar feed-in tariff had been reduced to $0.08. On questioning this with his retailer, he was advised that the paperwork for his upgrade had not been received and he was no longer eligible for the higher feed-in tariff. The customer supplied copies of his paperwork to the distributor, but these were not accepted as they were not dated for the period when the system upgrade occurred. Dissatisfied with the outcome, the customer contacted EWOQ.

On investigation, the distributor advised that if the customer could provide copies of the paperwork with proof of the date on which they were submitted the $0.44 feed-in tariff would be restored. The customer obtained a fax transmission report from his solar installer showing the date on which the paperwork had been submitted and the distributor accepted this report as evidence of the documentation being submitted on time. The customer’s eligibility for the $0.44 feed-in tariff was restored and the difference between the $0.08 he had been paid, and the $0.44 feed-in tariff to which he was entitled, was credited to his account.

Payment plan reduces debt

The customer rang EWOQ stating she was being threatened with disconnection for non payment of two transferred accounts. She had a direct debit on her current account and was up to date with that account but had not been able to keep to the payment arrangement to clear the outstanding amounts. The energy supplier was now demanding she pay the outstanding amount or face disconnection.

The customer did not have the money to pay the amount that was outstanding. She had unsuccessfully tried to obtain a loan from Centrelink to clear the old debt but the energy supplier had refused to give the customer any further extensions. The customer said she could increase her direct debit to clear the back debt.

EWOQ contacted the energy supplier on her behalf and determined the customer had a number of arrangements previously that she had not kept. EWOQ pointed out that the customer's current account was now up to date and that she was willing to increase her direct debit to clear the back debt. The energy supplier agreed to allow the customer time to pay off the account by an increase in her direct debit to clear the outstanding debt.

Frustrated by procedure

A customer contacted EWOQ as she had been in dispute with her retailer about the size of her bill. On contacting the retailer the customer was advised the bill was based on an actual meter reading and to monitor her usage. After she transferred to a new retailer her energy consumption was significantly lower than with her previous retailer. The customer then received a phone call from a debt collection agency about her outstanding bill. She contacted EWOQ to determine if the bills received from her previous retailer were accurate and based on actual meter readings. If not the customer requested that her previous retailer issue her with a credit and discontinue the debt collection.

We contacted the retailer and requested a high bill investigation be undertaken together with confirmation that the customer had been billed on actual meter readings and not estimated ones. We also requested information on the customer's usage history. Through our intervention the retailer confirmed that the bills were based on actual meter readings and as a gesture of goodwill, the retailer waived the customer's outstanding debt. In addition, the retailer withdrew the debt from the debt collection agency. 

Example 1

The customer contacted EWOQ concerned that after she and her husband had paid their deposit to have power extended to their new property, the energy supplier wanted payment for tree clearing. The customer did not see why they had to pay for tree clearing on Council land as there was no tree clearing required on their property.

When EWOQ investigated with the energy supplier it was determined that the customer had signed a contract accepting tree clearing as their responsibility.

After intervention by EWOQ the energy supplier agreed to absorb the cost of the consultant it had employed to determine the extent of tree clearing required and for the customer to obtain their own quotes from approved tree clearing contractors. The cost of the tree clearing was then substantially reduced.

Example 2

The customer contacted EWOQ because the local energy supplier's vegetation contractor had cut down five trees on the nature strip outside his residence and not cleared up the debris. He claimed two of the trees were inside his property boundary and the energy supplier had not sought permission or given any reason for the removal of the trees. He wanted the stumps removed and replacement trees.

When EWOQ contacted the energy supplier it stated the Council had given permission for the removal of the trees and the trees were outside the boundary of the customer's property. The customer advised his fence was behind the nature strip and survey pegs clearly marked the boundary of his property. He reiterated that two of the trees were within his property. The customer claimed Council had given permission for tree contractors to clear vegetation around the electricity lines but not to remove the trees.

The energy supplier agreed to grind out the stumps and supply power line friendly trees.

Compensation sought for loss of livestock

Cattle belonging to the customer died when they came into contact with a sagging power line. The customer claimed that the distributor’s linesmen told him that the line was sagging due to rusted connectors. His claim for compensation having been denied by the distributor he came to EWOQ for help.

On being contacted by EWOQ, the distributor agreed to compensate the customer for his loss, but without admitting liability. The customer received $3,000 in compensation.

10 business-day cooling-off period

The customer signed a contract with an energy provider on Thursday 15 November. Over the weekend, the customer's landlord told him that when the remaining three months on his lease were over he would not be able to renew the lease. The customer decided that the energy contract he signed was not ideal because, under its terms and conditions, moving house was regarded as a 'termination' and he would be charged a termination fee if he moved location within the contract period, even if he remained with the energy provider.

The customer rang the energy provider on Wednesday 27 November to cancel his contract. Because the customer signed the contract on 15 November, he was still within the 10 business-day cooling-off period which was due to end on Friday 30 November. The customer was told that he could cancel his contract without being charged a cancellation fee but he had to make his cancellation in writing.

Pensioner receives rebate

The customer was very distraught when he rang EWOQ to advise he was due to be disconnected for non-payment of his account. He advised he had paid at the bank but was convinced the teller had "pocketed his money". EWOQ contacted the energy supplier to hold disconnection action to allow the customer time to raise the issue of the missing money with the bank and to gather proof of payment. The customer was advised by EWOQ if he could not obtain proof of payment that it could negotiate a payment plan with the energy supplier.

As a gesture of goodwill EWOQ contacted the bank on behalf of the customer but no proof of payment could be found. After contacting the customer it was determined he was a single parent with a young baby who had recently lost his wife. During discussions with the customer about payment options it was determined he was not receiving a pensioner rebate. The energy supplier agreed to give the customer a pensioner rebate and to backdate it to when he had commenced the pension resulting in only a fraction of the amount outstanding.

Repeatedly told issue was resolved

A customer contacted EWOQ after trying to resolve an issue with his retailer since 2008 regarding a meter used for crop irrigation. The customer had received a final bill for this meter, which he had not requested. Concerned about being disconnected, the customer contacted the retailer and was advised the issue had been resolved. Over the next two years, the customer continued to pay his bills and thought no more of it, until a contractor attended to disconnect the meter. The customer contacted his retailer and was again advised the issue had been resolved. In June 2011, the customer was told by his retailer that he had been illegally using electricity and had 12 days to rectify the situation.

As a result of our intervention, the retailer provided the customer with an accurate bill. However, the retailer sought to back bill the customer for 3 years. This is prohibited by the Code. We again intervened and the bill was reduced by approximately $10,000.

Failure to remove meter

The customer had solar panels and a solar meter installed in 2009, at which time the electrician contacted the distributor and requested the removal of the off-peak meter. This was not done. Over the years the customer contacted his retailer trying to have the meter removed and to be reimbursed for the minimum service fee for the meter. The customer eventually contacted EWOQ seeking assistance.

We contacted the retailer who confirmed that the meter should have been removed in early 2010. After discussing the matter with us, the retailer also compensated the customer by applying a credit to the customer's account, waived the fees charged for the period the off-peak meter was not removed and offered the customer a goodwill gesture of $75.

Extension delays

The customer paid for an extension of the electricity supply to the house he was having built. The energy supplier had provided three different dates for connecting electricity to his house but did not meet any of them. The customer was concerned about the delays and the inconsistent advice being provided by the energy supplier. Because of the delays he had to use a generator and was seeking reimbursement of the fuel costs for the generator and interest on the money he had to borrow from the bank to cover the cost to extend the electricity supply.

EWOQ met with the customer and the energy supplier to discuss the problem and seek reimbursement of costs due to the delays. The customer was connected shortly after the meeting took place and the energy supplier agreed to reimburse the customer as a gesture of goodwill.

Investigation clears the distributor of any fault

The customer, a farmer, claimed that the voltage supplied to his property varied so much that it caused his irrigation pump to stop. Discussions with his distributor had failed to resolve the issue. The customer claimed that the distributor had conducted tests on his power supply but he did know the results. Seeking a timely resolution, the customer contacted EWOQ.

As a result of the EWOQ investigation, voltage recorders were installed at the service pole which found that the voltage entering the property was within the required range. However, during the investigation, EWOQ noted that no complaint had been made by the customer until after he had completed some work on the pump. The customer was advised by EWOQ to have an electrical contractor check all of his connections. In addition, the distributor offered to further discuss other options to assist the customer.

Customer disadvantaged by distributor’s inaction

The customer, who had a 5 kW solar photovoltaic (PV) system on his property, noticed that the inverter would regularly shut down and not export any surplus power to the grid. This resulted in him not receiving the solar feed-in tariff bonus for the period the inverter was out of action. The customer spoke with the distributor who advised that although his system was functioning correctly, other PV systems in the neighbourhood were exporting too much power into the grid and prevented his system from doing so. The customer was told that it could take up to six months to rectify the issue. The customer sought our assistance.

During the EWOQ investigation, the distributor found a number of non-compliant solar PV systems in the vicinity of the customer’s premises. These systems were shut down and the owners told to have them rectified before they could feed power into the grid. Testing was carried out on the customer’s three phase power and the local network was configured to balance the solar load. In addition, a faulty voltage regulator was discovered and replaced. By the end of the distributor’s works, the customer was able to export power to the grid.

Power supply not to blame

The customer, a business owner, claimed that his electrical goods failed due to a surge in power and was seeking compensation from the distributor to cover the electrician’s call out fee. The customer had followed the electricity distributor’s compensation and appeals process and his claim was refused after tests found that there was no fault with the voltage supply. The customer was not satisfied with this decision as he claimed the distributor had informed him that there were problems with the initial tests.

As part of the investigation, EWOQ asked the distributor to undertake further power quality supply tests which confirmed that the electricity entering the customer’s property was within the acceptable range. However, the data provided indicated there was a voltage drop when an appliance that drew substantial power was turned on at the property, indicating an issue with the customer’s surge protection switches. The customer was advised to consult with an electrician to ensure the problem did not occur again.