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Power company horror stories

Posted by: 3AW Radio | 20 January, 2012 - 10:10 AM
Power bills are expected to soar

Power companies are on notice that rules which have allowed them to successfully appeal for extra cash to upgrade poles and wires are under review.

The court decision, against the Energy Regulator decision, means households will pay about 14-dollars-a-year more for power between 2013 and 2016.

Energy Minister Michael O'Brien has told Neil Mitchell the government is disappointed with the decision and will seek to have the state's and territories agree to new rules on energy price regulation.

Neil Mitchell says people are fed up with the attitudes of the power companies and is asking you to leave your power company 'horror stories'.

Leave yours below (or email nmitchell@3aw.com.au); let's get the message across.



- Neil, $1100 last quarter. Truenergy and Sp Ausnet not the least bit interested in helping. Went away for Xmas, still used 15 kilowatts a day with only 2 fridges running I thought electricity would be an essential service. We are struggling to live. Warren


- Neil my niece conducted an independent survey on behalf of a research marketing company on power usage in the northern suburbs. Surprisingly it uncovered that in 3 council areas the hume, darebin and moreland of the 500 households surveyed up to 32 per cent of them shut their power off at night and literally sat in the dark with candles to save money because of the rising costs! Tell Julia gillard the next time she jetsets to play handies with her best mate obama we don't feel so lucky in this so called lucky country! Steve


- Neil, I was listening to you this morning on my way to work regarding electricity companies. My daughter is a sole parent of two children aged 10 and 8 and struggles constantly every week to make ends meet. Just before Christmas I contact Energy Watch on her behalf to try and get her a cheaper electricity provider. They contacted her and provided her with one, not sure who it was, and they knocked her back because her credit rating was not good. I was shocked when I she told me this and I thought can they do that. So now if anyone has a bad credit rating they can't get electricity!!! It is becoming a luxury. You try to help your daughter and with soaring costs of petrol and electricity it is becoming harder and harder for her. She also works full-time and is now trying to get another job that will bring in more income for her to help make ends meet.


- Hi Neil, I've been following with interest the issue of Power Companies slugging customers to pay for their infrastructure upgrade. We live in a rural area in the Yarra Valley, and our power supply comes from an electricity line which runs along the rear of our property. From the electricity line to our property boundary, there is a small portion of crown land which had a power pole on it. We lease that portion of land from the DSE.  Then from our property boundary to our house, there were 3 separate power poles bringing the line up.  These power poles were deemed private, and were our responsibility to maintain. The DSE land is heavily treed, but our property consists of horse paddocks, and all our trees are on the other side, well away from the power poles. SP Ausnet came out every two years or so and inspected the poles.  Never any problem. Then, in late 2010, I had an inspector knock on the door, to tell me our private power poles had been condemned, and we would have to put our power underground. I quizzed him as to why, and he said that the poles were no longer deemed suitable. I asked whether this had anything to do with the results of the bushfire royal commission. He looked very edgy, fidgeted around, and then told me “off the record” that they wanted to get rid of all these types of private power lines to minimise the fire risk. When I asked him about the power pole on the DSE land, he advised that that one was still ok. I smelt a rat. That power pole was in a heavily treed area, and every time we had a northerly wind, I used to worry that branches would hit the line. We kept it as clear as we could, but ultimately were limited in what we could do.  We had, on occasion, had a tree company in to clear branches away from the line, at our own expense. That power pole was also heavily undermined by a rabbit warren on our neighbour’s adjoining property (the pole was very close to the boundary), and I considered it to be unsafe. Funny, though, how anything that might cost the government was ok to leave, but anything that would cost the ppty owner had to be removed. I asked what would happen if we couldn’t afford to put the power underground.  I was told bluntly that our power would be cut off. I then kicked up a stink, demanded that someone higher up come out and inspect the pole on the DSE land. I told them that I wasn’t going to put the power underground, at great expense, on our property, if the power was going to remain above ground on the heavily treed DSE land. That was far more of a fire risk than anywhere else.  To their credit, SP Ausnet came out and re-inspected, and advised that they agreed with me, and that the DSE pole would also have to go. We then set about arranging with an electrician and a Boring Contractor to have the line bored underground, from the electricity line at the rear, up through the DSE land, then into our property and up to our house. The DSE paid for their section, we paid for ours. All up, the total cost to us was around $8,000.00, which we had to find, or face having the power cut off. So I find it very interesting that people like us are told, in no uncertain terms, that their power has to be put underground, at their own expense. But the power companies then won’t pay for their own infrastructure upgrade – guess what, they slug the customers for that as well. Any wonder people go solar! Michael.

- Good Morning Neil, Further to our telephone conversation this morning I now enclose a copy of our latest electricity bill. As mentioned on the telephone we are a small struggling family business – we purchased two new machines and found out that there was no longer enough power in the street to allow the machines to be connected. We therefore had to pay for additional power to come into the building and a power pole was erected outside our premises and we paid $25,000 for this to happen. Since this installation we are now subject to Network charges which work out the surge of power generated when a machine is switched on – this is how they calculate the Network Charge. In addition to this charge, for 5 months of the year we are then hit with a Summer Demand Incentive Charge. I have queried the bills with the Electricity Company and they have said that they only thing that they can suggest we do to reduce our bill is to operate our machines at off peak hours - off peak times are 11pm to 6am. I did also contact the Ombudsman and I have to say that they were absolutely hopeless and after many phone calls from me – they eventually told me that they had spoken to the Electricity Company and that there was nothing that they could do. You will see from the latest email from AGL that they are now informing me of yet another charge which will apply from 01 January and will be reflected on my next bill – this is to do with the VEET scheme and will initially be charged out at $3.52 per MWh of electricity. We cannot cut our timber without the use of electricity and we have no alternative but to keep trying to forge forward – our business is a cut-to-size Oregon (Douglas Fir) timber mill and all of our customers pick up during the day –we employ four people (that includes myself and my husband) and there is no way that we can cut timber at night and then stay open during the day to load trucks. If you want copies of previous please let me know I will be happy to provide you with anything that will help put the Electricity Companies on notice. I look forward to hearing from you. Kind regards, Brenda Blake JUST WOOD AUSTRALIA PTY LIMITED 

IMAGE: An image of Just Wood's invoice.



- Hi Neil, I can’t always listen but when I do, I enjoy your show. I have recently moved house in December and changed my supplier after being recommended by Energywatch. I am now with AGL for both electricity and Gas supply. AGL said that would invoice me in 3 months time for the initial charges (besides the connection charges). As you could imagine, getting a bill in three months time with the current rates will throw the cash flow out a little! I have just rang their Customer Service to be asked to be put on a monthly invoice. Their reply is that they cannot invoice monthly with the explanation is that the ‘supplier’ (I assume United Energy in this case) only takes a reading every 3 months! I said to them, that they were the retailer and therefore it is their responsibility. I asked if I could phone in a reading and the response was – No! They offered a payment plan whereby you pay a ‘estimated’ amount each month and then after six months, they adjust it accordingly. But when they offer you what that amount is, it is very low. I explained that other suppliers would offer monthly bills or the ability to ring in readings. They said, if I could find a supplier who did that, then go with them. The issue being, like all suppliers, they lock you into a two year contract with get out costs. Isn’t this a similar issue everyone had with the banks and mortgages? We will all be living by candlelight soon – the issue then, is the insurers will raise their costs even more because there will so many house fires!! What’s next in kicking the average, hard working , family man in the guts even more? Good luck! Damien Collins

PLAY: Energy Minister Michael O'Brien speaks to Neil Mitchell


Blog comments Your Say

  • Hi Neil. I have been fighting with red energy about my bills for years. Bills of up to $2500.00 for a 3 bed house. No electric hot water not electric over. We have solar power and a gas boosted solar hot water. and some bills say we used 122Kwh per day. No one can offer an explanation I am told it is natural fluctuations. Yet a bell for the same number of days and in the same time of year and I am using 40KwH per day. I have tried the ombudsman who tells me that in terms of high bills there is not much they can do. Red energy especially Rhys Mckimmey have been rude and I was told Earlier this week that if I didn't arrange a payment plan for the bills I have an issue with they would disconnect my power the next day. Even though I have been paying the current bills which I believe are high but still not over $1000.00. As far as I am concerned they have not resolved the issue and the ombudsman have been useless and know Red energy believe they can bully me. I asked them to send an email so I had in writting the threat that if I didn't give them my banking details over the phone that they would disconnect the power, I was refused this. I then requested a transcript of the conversation which I was refused. I then sent an email requesting the transcript and I have not had a response.

    sarah Wednesday 7 March, 2012 - 10:44 AM
  • Hi Neil, we have purchased a surge protector power board for some of our electrical equipment.Every time we use it the safety switch goes on our smart meter.Does anybody know why this happens?

    sam bertrand Wednesday 22 February, 2012 - 11:52 AM
  • Regulator decision, means households will pay about 14-dollars-a-year more for power between 2013 and 2016.
    Well l got my new power rates to day starting in march and if my bill is the same as my last bill l was be paying just over $100.00 more per bill so that will be around $400.00 more a year, till they turn on all the smart meter and then the rate will 0.2550pk and .01657 off peak so now my bill will just over $150.00 and for the year l will pay $600.00 more not $14.00. so watch out for that one everybody......

    bill mccoy Thursday 2 February, 2012 - 2:25 PM
  • Anyone in this comment thread with issues about home electricity, is offered 20 mins of free home electricity advice by Aussie Home Energy. We are a small NSW business offering free help for any Aussie with electricity issues. This service is our way of helping the community. We will not try to sell any products. Our main aim is to educate the customer on how electricity usage is converted into a bill. Awareness is the key to keeping the electricity costs down. As we know this is moderated please do whatever you need to, to edit this comment. Anyone is Australia can use our services or find them easily by searching for 'home electricity reduction'.

    Andrew Tuesday 31 January, 2012 - 9:21 AM
  • G'day Neil,

    Over the last 6 to 8 weeks, i had arranged for Solar power to be installed. That was the easy part.

    You would not believe the mis information from various electrical providers, i have received everything from incorrect tarrifs, wrongly quoted discounts and i was even offered, in a written contract, a 66c feed back tariff which apparently ended last September. When questioned about this, the offer was a mistake and withdrawn.

    As part of a solar system, i need to go to a smart meter which i have been putting off... however, i dont really need it as my current meter goes backwards during the day anyway so there's no benefit for the smart meter except for the fact that while it would have been installed for free (sic) during the rollout, now i have to pay a fee of around $170 to have it fitted.

    I questioned SP ausnet about this, the idiot woman told me i shouldnt even have my solar turned on (it was inspected by a govt inspector and approved for use) and if it is turned on, im stealing power as im using sunlight instead of their grid supplied power...i ended up hanging up on her...is all this for real??...the solar installer, said it was fine to turn on.....

    Bottom line, i pay about 21c/kwh for power, buy back offer is 25c/kwh and the smart meter works all this out, if i had one....or, leave the old meter in and have it go backwards (as it does), i may miss out on about 3 - 4c buy back...but i can stop banging my head against the wall.

    Smart meter maybe, sadly organised by stupid people. Apples for Apples, you gotta be joking....

    Tiberius Miller Monday 30 January, 2012 - 11:41 AM
  • We decided to invest in 3.1kw solar power panels January 2011. We notified Origin and were given misinformation by their service officers so didn't officially apply for the government rebate 66 cents in July. We have been told by Powercor that we have qualified for the rebate on 1st September 2011. We have not received a power bill from Origin since this date even though I contacted them and was promised a bill. I was told their accounting system has problems with solar clients. It is now late January, receiving no bills and still no confirmation from Origin about our solar account. I was advised by a disinterested Origin service officer to write a letter of complaint which I did on 12th January 2012 but no reply received. It is clearly obvious in my dealings with Origin that if you are a solar customer they are not interested in your business. I suppose my next step is the ombudsman but why does it have to be so difficult?

    Fiona Tranter Monday 30 January, 2012 - 11:31 AM

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