A Victorian man says he was so distressed by an energy retailer’s bad service that he was forced to see a psychologist.
A Victorian man says he was so distressed by an energy retailer’s bad service that he was forced to see a psychologist.

How a distraught customer took on a power company — and won

A Victorian man says he was so distressed by an energy retailer's bad service that he was forced to see a psychologist.

The power company accused of poor treatment agreed to cover his medical costs after the state's energy watchdog investigated.

Victoria's Energy and Water Ombudsman was called in to help settle a dispute over the size of the discount applied to the man's electricity bills.

The frustrated customer complained of misinformation, overdue notices and debt collection demands that upset him so much he had to consult a psychologist.

He switched to another provider, while still owing almost $1000, after unsuccessful attempts to fix the saga that snowballed after he got a less-than-expected price discount.

The retailer eventually agreed to his request for a $1005.58 resolution payment. He was reimbursed $446 for medical costs and $359.58 for missed discounts, and given a $200 credit for poor customer service.

Medical costs were covered as part of a resolution payment. Picture: iStock
Medical costs were covered as part of a resolution payment. Picture: iStock

Although the Energy and Water Ombudsman Victoria does not investigate damages for mental anguish or pain and suffering, it can investigate substantiated loss "linked to or resulting from the actions of an energy or water company".

In this case, the request for psychologist appointment costs to be reimbursed was considered as part of the watchdog's assessment of a "fair and reasonable outcome".

The ombudsman's investigation, which was completed in recent months, found the retailer had not put the electricity account on hold as promised when the man first raised concerns and asked for a review.

"We also found examples of incorrect, conflicting or confusing information, failure to respond, and delays in sending him information," a case summary reveals.

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Sales consultants had repeatedly given wrong advice, the inquiry found.

The free dispute resolution service does not identify companies or customers involved in complaint investigations.

Latest figures show EWOV handled 6024 complaints and inquiries in the three months to June. Most related to electricity and gas.

Billing was the biggest source of gripes, although cases were down 19 per cent compared with the same time last year.

Credit cases, such as threatened or actual disconnections and disputed default listings, fell by 33 per cent.

karen.collier@news.com.au

@KarenCollierHS