Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Mother's Electric

Mother's electric supply and billing has almost become beyond my understanding.

In January this year she was door knocked and signed up for a two year contract for discounted electricity with Tru Energy, her existing company, she thought. It quickly became apparent to her that it was not the same company but Tru Energy NSW, a different state and a different company. She did not like that and within the cooling off period requested a cancellation of the contract and to be returned to Tru Energy Victoria.

In spite of several phone calls she has made since then, she has not had an electric bill. Mother barely manages to pay her electric bill, in fact I paid her bill for the last quarter of last year. As for saving up for a big bill like a bill of many months electric supply of perhaps over $1000, no, that is not my mother.

It has been an ongoing worry for Mother. It should be a worry for us kids as we will be the ones who have to pay. While I already knew, I printed out a fact sheet from the Energy Ombudsman website saying that she could not billed for electricity any further back than nine months and that she will be given an equal time to pay. It is now past the nine months so Mother will now have free electricity due to electric company incompetence.

I called Mother to tell her not make any more calls about her non existent electric bill, as she will now have free electricity. Mother was one step ahead of me though.

She received letters of demand to know her identity from Origin Energy. She ignored the first. The second letter advised her that her power may be disconnected.

Now while Mother may behave like a silly schoolgirl most of the time, do not threaten Mother. Never threaten Mother. I have vague childhood memories of Mother being threatened and she turned into a smart and self assured person very quickly.

Late afternoon she called Social Security about the electric company that threatened to cut off her electricity. They advised her to call the company at 8am, no matter what time their opening hours were. She stewed and fretted on it overnight. Mother doesn't usually rise until 9am but by 7am she was up, showered and dressed and called Tru Energy Victoria, which as usual said she owed them nothing. She called Tru Energy NSW who told her they had transferred her to Origin Energy. Why? She wanted to be transferred back to Tru Energy Vic within a cooling off period. But it was Origin who threatened to cut her supply off, so she saved herself for them. I am 82 years old, wrong, she is 79, I have a heart condition, not so, I have no one to help me, untrue, ABI lives five minutes away, I have a personal alarm system that relies on a supply of electricity, that is true.

We are terribly sorry Mrs C. We will look into our methods of notification. You were transferred to us in August and you should receive a bill soon, but only back to August.

So it looks like Mother will only have to pay electricity back to August, which is the normal three month billing period, and had free electricity from January to August. That is if the bill does arrive. Mother asked Origin to be transferred to Tru Energy Victoria, as she originally requested. This may go on for a long time yet.

How can companies be so incompetent? It is beyond belief. What should be so simple seems to happen like you are the first person in the world to alter something. Like this example from James, or my own when I wanted to change my phone data plan.

What world do I live in? Thanks goodness there are birds and trees to look at. They make sense.

21 comments:

  1. I've heard of this happening a bit and it's very frustrating. Gross incompetence that's for sure. Hopefully they'll forget to bill her for the next 9 months, but then again I'd rather pay bills than fret about what may or may not appear.

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    1. I agree Fen. It is not worth the stress.

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  2. How can companies be so incompetent? I don't think incompetence is the right word... let us call it malevolence. What company drums up business by door knocking on the doors of elderly women living alone? Lies about their name and location? Doesn't document the nature of the contract? Relentlessly attacks the customer when there is confusion?

    Get your mother on the Do Not Call List. It isn't foolproof but it is a public statement to malevolent profiteers not to call her or knock on her door again.

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    1. Hels, all quite wrong business practice. Door to door selling of electricity? How did this happen. She is on the phone do not call list, but she is lonely at times and likes people at her front door, and then complains later.

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  3. I had problems like this with telephone in the past, when I changed companies and I ended up in a Victorian company so it's best if you stick to your own state so if the worse comes to the worse you can go sit outside of there head office with a sign '"Don't use this company they are idiots'', but you might get arrested
    Merle............

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    1. Merle, being out the front of a business protesting is quite legal and a good last resort tactic.

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  4. This is why I am always wary about these special :deals" - they prey on people's vulnerability and good-naturedness.

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    1. Keith, I once worked out we could save $30 a year by changing electric companies. Not worth the bother.

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  5. I have been reading/listening to so many horror stories of people in the UK suffering because of rising electricity cost and energy companies taking users for a ride as it is so I can appreciate how your mom keeps her head on her shoulder and is in control of the situation - good on her!

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    1. Michael, electricity and gas. It is awful in the UK. I think we can thank Margaret Thatcher for this.

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  6. "...she turned into a smart and self-assured person very quickly."
    Going by that statement alone, I'm thinking none of the stuff ups would have happened in the first place if mother had played the smart self-assured persona from the start. She would have been transferred back to Tru Energy Vic on day one.
    She's played you and everyone else just like always it seems. And got free electricity too.

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    1. River, you are being most unkind, but also quite correct. But what can we do? It is a game. We can't see our aged mother, who never spared any expense for us, without electricity. I remember her as smart and self assured three times, once when I was a child and the other two times when she was in hospital.

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    2. I'm sorry, I didn't mean to be unkind, just pointing out that I realise what she has done and how some of the trouble could have been averted from the beginning. I understand it is a game and all have roles to play. I understand that your mother needs to be needed, she needs to know that you all will look after her. I feel also that she is not happy about growing old, whether she knows this or not, I'm glad that she has you and the others, but still, if only she could be the smart and self assured mother a little more often.

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    3. We all wish she could be more self sufficient River, like my step mother is. Self sufficient and self supporting. But her life has been one of being dependant on her father, her husband, her father again then my step father. I am very conflicted. In some ways she marvellous but in other ways, I wonder how I will be able to write something positive about her for her funeral. At the end of the day, she was a good mother to us all.

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  7. I was plagued by Origin Energy sales people for the first couple of years here in Larrikin's End. They were almost laughably agressive but it always concerned me that their tactics would be tough for elderly people to resist. I wrote several letters of complaint without any effect at all.

    When I lived in the UK, I had both my gas and electric accounts hijacked a couple of times each while I was out of the country. Sales people would just fake a signature on a contract and send it off to my supplier. I'd come back after a couple of months away and in the depths of winter to find I had no gas and/or electric. My legitimate accounts were paid by direct debit. The hijacker would send a bill which didn't get paid and my service would be cut off. It would take days to sort out. Very, very cross and also very, very cold.

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    1. Pants, honestly, I am surprised she succumbed but it was by deceptive behaviour of the door knocker. We had often warned her about door to door and she knew the dangers.

      You came back from abroad in sunny and warm climes to an unheated flat in midwinter? I'd be very cross too.

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  8. We do have a sign on the front gate that says "The Schnauzers won't hurt you but beware of the bitch that answers the door"... but Pants' story is a scary one.

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    1. Lol FC. Quite true too, I'm sure.

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    2. Love that sign!

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  9. I wonder if its because we've gotten so used to computers doing the thinking for us these days that in some cases we, not you and I :) become like a cog in a wheel that often breaks down? I think your mum is lovely..frustrating for sure, but when all is said and done we wouldn't be daily entertained by your blog if she hadn't has you in the first place oui!

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    1. Grace, yes she is quite entertaining. I should focus more on the positives.

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