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NSW Energy Australia Bill Received Before Registration - No Legal Aid Help?

Discussion in 'Australian Consumer Law Forum' started by Energy, 1 December 2014.

  1. Energy

    Energy Member

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    Hello,
    About 3.5 years ago I moved to the house I am now in. About 2 months after moving here, I got a door knocking sales person from True Energy...unlike my usual policy not to take solicitations by door to door salespeople, I decided to sign up with them. About a week later I get a call from Energy Australia saying that they didn't want me to leave them and if I could please come back to them they'd give me a very good plan. I decided to go back to Energy Australia and they told me the exact words that I had to say to True Energy in order to legally get out of the plan. I did this, and thus just assumed that I was then back with Energy Australia.

    Unbeknowns to me, I had slipped through the administration system with Energy Australia and they did not send me a bill for my electricity for approximately 2 years! In June 2013, I got a letter from Energy Australia addressed to "Dear Occupant" which said " our records show that we currently supply electricity to this address but we don't have any customer details on file. A Probe Officer will visit this address on our behalf within the next 7 days to collect your contact details so that we can continue to supply you with electricity. If you'd prefer to provide your contact details over the phone then please call Probe on 100 660 522."

    I immediately did this and gave my details. A couple of weeks later (approx.), I received a bill for $2,953.63 for backdating of electricity supply for 9 months! I rang them and told them that I couldn't pay. They told me to ring EWON which I did. EWON looked into it and told me that I am legally required to pay for 9 months supply because the electricity supplier is legally able to backdate 9 months! They gave me till Jan 14th, 2015 to pay it all. I told them that they did not have me on record as a customer so how can they bill me now! I never agreed to pay the amount, stating all the time that their administrative bungle was not my problem, and that I am happy to pay for all bills on time that are billed to me from the time that they registered me as a customer around July 2013, which I have since done.

    As the time draws near now to Jan 14th, I have been sent a disconnection first notice. I have rung EWON today and told them that it is not my problem and that I want to get Legal Aid to dispute this issue, but they insisted that Legal Aid would only tell me to go to EWON since it is a billing issue! EWON are saying that I need to pay the $2,953.63 because I was using electricity for this time. I am disputing this, because I was not registered legally on their books as a customer! There is a huge circular discussion going on and they are insisting that my electricity will be disconnected unless I pay the full amount!

    My question is - is a citizen by law duty bound to pay for a service when they are not a customer of a company under Australian Consumer Law? (I have a letter from Energy Australia admitting that I was not registered as a customer in this period). In other words, does a citizen have to be responsible for the administrative bungles of a company or not? My feeling is that it is not legal to require someone who is not registered as a customer to pay, as it is not the consumer's problem if energy is being fed to the household on a blank customer. I admit that it is a subtle point but I really cannot afford this amount and am being bullied into paying it.

    Thank you for your time.
    With best wishes
    Energy
     
  2. Sarah J

    Sarah J Well-Known Member

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    Hi Energy,

    Unfortunately, since you were using the electricity during this time you are obliged to pay for this service and supply under principles of unjust enrichment. Energy Australia has made a clerical error, which should entitle you to a discount of some sort, however, it does not completely abolish your obligation to pay for what you have used.

    In the telecommunications industry in Australia, as an example, there is a policy that companies should not be chasing bills older than 24 months. However, this is just "good practice" as agreed by the telecommunications industry and the ombudsman (EWOS may or may not have a similar agreement with the energy and water sector). However, under general law, a company has up to 6 years from the date the debt falls due (or from when they notify the debtor) to initiate action.

    However, as this is a large sum to pay within a short time, Energy Australia should negotiate a payment plan with you at no extra penalty to allow you to repay them in instalments.
     
    Rod likes this.
  3. Rod

    Rod Well-Known Member

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    This is what you should do.

    I agree with Sarah. You used the electricity, you need to pay the company that supplied it to you. You can and should negotiate for a discount and payment over 12 or 24 months. May not get exactly what you want but if you don't ask for it, you certainly won't get it. Demanding it will not help your case either. Be nice, say 'you accept their mistake, now let's negotiate'.

    Your argument about 'not being customer' is unlikely to work as a defence if they take you to court. Your argument would be valid if you did not consume electricity or you paid another company for the electricity. However neither of these happened according to you, so, if you dig your heels in and refuse to pay, chances are it will not end well for you.
     
  4. Energy

    Energy Member

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    Thank you VERY much Sarah for this.... it is very informative and helpful... thank you
     
    Sarah J likes this.

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