VIC Damages Against Major Power Company & Debt Collectors?

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Judy Edwards

2 August 2014
In 2013, we had a group of very well presented young men selling us the opportunity for cheaper power. Our power needs are quite substantial as we run a farm and an accommodation facility We have about 12 meters to be read and billed. We agreed to change supplier with the condition they would give us just 1 itemised bill each month. "Yes yes we can do that, no problem," they said. So we signed up.

The first bill arrived, then another, then another until all 12 had arrived. By the time the last one was in the first one was overdue. I would get totally confused as to which meter was paid and which wasn't. Consequently one bill was paid twice and another overlooked. The Company pursued me via debt collectors for the one but kept the extra payment in their coffers not ever informing me that I had quite a large credit on one account although very insistent I pay the other. I knew in my mind how much I had paid and didn't think I owed them anything but still paid what was owing via the debt collector.

Then this year I needed some extra cash and tried to apply for credit. I was knocked back because of a debt listed on Veda after a credit check. It was only in pursuing the power company that I found out that they still held a substantial amount of our money which they never told me about, more than enough to cover the debt that was owed. I have a bad credit rating, they have all that was owed to them and they have just refunded the money they owed. I think what they did was very wrong and wonder if I would be right to go for damages against the company.

Bullying, breach of contract, withholding funds and personal damage because of the bad credit rating, not to mention stress and financial loss because I could not do what I needed to in my business without an extra injection of cash. If I had not applied for a credit card, I would never have found out about the extra money they were holding or the fact I had been listed as a credit risk with VEDA. I want my name cleared and I want them to compensate for the stress this whole thing has caused. Any thoughts?

Sarah J

Well-Known Member
16 July 2014
Melbourne, Victoria
Hi Judy,

Where you enter into an agreement on particular conditions at the point of sale (eg. getting one itemised bill), it is expected that such conditions are subsequently complied with. Where they are not, you will likely have grounds to dispute the debt and/or the agreement/plan itself. Furthermore, there are credit management procedures that need to be complied with before a company can list a default against your name. Briefly, the procedure is to notify you first, attempt to contact you via two or more contact methods, allow you time to dispute/pay/negotiate the debt and then list it as the last resort. On this basis, you can dispute the credit listing on Veda.

I would suggest contacting the Energy Company first and lodge a complaint with them, asking them to (i) negotiate some sort of payment arrangement for the outstanding amount and (ii) remove the credit listing on Veda.

If this fails, you can contact the Energy and Water Ombudsman of Victoria ("EWOS") and lodge a complaint with them. They are a free service that resolves disputes between consumers and energy and water companies in Victoria. You may lodge a complaint online, by calling 1800 500 509 or by email/post. It would be reasonable for EWOS to ask the company to: (i) put outstanding debts on hold until the charges are investigated, (ii) remove the default listing against your name, (iii) terminate the energy agreement without additional penalties on the grounds of incorrect information given at the point of sale.

However, if you seek compensation for your time, energy and inconvenience this incident, EWOS will likely not be able to help you as they have limited powers in relation to compensation. You will need to seek such damages in VCAT or the Magistrates' Court.
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John R

Well-Known Member
14 April 2014
Hi Judy,
  1. In relation to your energy contract and billing issues, I agree with @Sarah J that energy companies generally have a dispute resolution procedure and if your complaint is not satisfactorily resolved, you can escalate to EWOV.
  2. In relation to the accuracy of your credit file, you may consider asking Veda to investigate your credit file complaint via Veda's Resolution Centre. This is a free process that can take up to 30 days and if you are not satisfied with the outcome, you can escalate to the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner.

Hope this helps. Please keep us updated with your progress.
Hi Judy,
Did you end up getting the default removed from your credit rating?