IT error costs Origin Energy $120,000 for disconnecting customers

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Origin has been ordered to pay $120,000 in penalties by the energy regulator after customers were wrongfully disconnected.

It is alleged that an IT system error led Origin Energy to cut power to customers who had already paid their outstanding bills.

Australian Energy Regulator (AER) Chair Clare Savage said Origin was issued with six infringement notices under the National Energy Retail Rules, which saw customers without power for a number of days.

“Disconnecting a premise is one of the most disruptive steps an energy retailer can take. Protecting customers from wrongful disconnection will always be a key priority for the AER,” she said.

“Retailers must have adequate systems in place to ensure disconnections only occur when permitted by the National Energy Retail Rules. Origin offered affected customers a fixed payment of $142 but this may not have compensated for actual losses suffered. It is not acceptable for customers to have to pay for a hotel or replace the food in their fridge because their electricity has been cut off through no fault of their own.”

Origin Energy: “We are sorry”

In response to the penalties, Origin Executive General Manager John Briskin said: “We are sorry to these customers for our error which, once discovered, was fixed and an apology and compensation was provided.

“We work really hard to get things right for our customers and have learnt from this error. We have already implemented a number of improvements so this doesn’t happen again.”

All ‘big three’ energy providers in hot water

Australian power sockets

The AER has taken a strict stance on wrongful disconnections lately, with EnergyAustralia copping a penalty of $1.5 million last week for failing to protect customers in financial hardship, while AGL was fined $100,000 on 4 November for similar breaches.

With Origin, AGL and EnergyAustralia all making headlines recently, it’s reassuring that all retailers – big or small – are held accountable by regulators who have customers’ best interests in mind, said Canstar Blue Editor-in-Chief, Simon Downes.

“There are processes and laws retailers must follow before disconnecting power to a property, and the AER has been keeping a watchful eye on companies doing the wrong thing,” he said.

“If you are struggling to pay your bills, your retailer must take steps to help you get back on track before the last resort of disconnecting your power supply. This should never happen as long as you engage with your provider and make an effort to pay what you owe.”

Is it time to switch energy providers?

If you’ve been with the same power company for a while now, chances are you could be on a less competitive deal. Check out a range of cheap energy plans below or use our comparison tool to review electricity prices in your area.

Here are some of the cheapest published deals from the retailers on our database that include a link to the retailer’s website for further details. These are products from referral partners†. These costs are based on the Ausgrid network in Sydney but prices may vary depending on your circumstances. This comparison assumes general energy usage of 3900kWh/year for a residential customer on a single rate tariff. Please use our comparison tool for a specific comparison in your area. Our database may not cover all deals in your area. As always, check all details of any plan directly with the retailer before making a purchase decision.

Here are some of the cheapest published deals from the retailers on our database that include a link to the retailer’s website for further details. These are products from referral partners†. These costs are based on the Citipower network in Melbourne but prices may vary depending on your circumstances. This comparison assumes general energy usage of 4000kWh/year for a residential customer on a single rate tariff. Please use our comparison tool for a specific comparison in your area. Our database may not cover all deals in your area. As always, check all details of any plan directly with the retailer before making a purchase decision.

Here are some of the cheapest published deals from the retailers on our database that include a link to the retailer’s website for further details. These are products from referral partners†. These costs are based on the Energex network in Brisbane but prices may vary depending on your circumstances. This comparison assumes general energy usage of 4600kWh/year for a residential customer on a single rate tariff. Please use our comparison tool for a specific comparison in your area. Our database may not cover all deals in your area. As always, check all details of any plan directly with the retailer before making a purchase decision.

Here are some of the cheapest published deals from the retailers on our database that include a link to the retailer’s website for further details. These are products from referral partners†. These costs are based on the SA Power network in Adelaide but prices may vary depending on your circumstances. This comparison assumes general energy usage of 4000kWh/year for a residential customer on a single rate tariff. Please use our comparison tool for a specific comparison in your area. Our database may not cover all deals in your area. As always, check all details of any plan directly with the retailer before making a purchase decision.

Image credits: BossNid/Shutterstock.com, Kitch Bain/Shutterstock.com

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