'WRONG AND UNFAIR' Couple lose thousands to Ergon
Brett and Angela Beveridge have lived in their home at The Caves for 6.5 years and up until six months ago were paying between $1200 and $1400 a quarter in electricity.
The couple spoke to The Morning Bulletin yesterday about their electricity bills as the LNP promised to cut Queenslanders' bills by up to $300.
They said after receiving their first few bills back in 2014, the two couldn't understand why they were so expensive.
They consulted friends who lived in the area who agreed they were paying far too much.
The Beveridges took it to Ergon, their energy suppliers, but were told the meter reading was correct.
In 2015, Cyclone Marcia hit and the Beveridges' home was badly damaged.
They were forced to move out for six months while it was rebuilt.
In this time, despite the power being cut off, they received a bill for $1000 from Ergon.
After contesting it, the bill was waived but once the couple were able to move back in, the extortionate bills continued.
According to Mr Beveridge, their entire home contents were written off and as a result, the house contained all new appliances and wiring.
"When we got the house rebuilt, we got all new wires, all new appliances, aircon installed and fans and our bill didn't change at all, it was the exact same," he said.
Mr Beveridge said he assumed the bill may have been higher with the added air cons and fans.
The Beveridges continued to question Ergon but were told the company didn't do residential meter testing and they would have to organise their own electricians.
"We got a couple of electricians out and they said the same thing, there's nothing in our house that could be using that much power," he said.
Despite this assertion and the Beveridges' continued efforts to talk to Ergon, the thousand dollar bills continued to roll in every quarter, leaving them with no choice but to pay them.
Fast forward to the end of last year when the couple decided, after a few years of saving, to invest in solar energy.
They organised for a technician to come out and see the house and explained to them their ongoing issues with their electricity bills.
"We gave them a copy of our bill and they said the same thing, there's no way a house of our size could be using that sort of power," Mr Beveridge said.
"We opened up the meter box and I noticed we suddenly had a new digital meter installed."
"The solar electrician said he'd complained as well on our behalf, so he called up and got the average power bill for 12 months, which right up until the day the new meter had been installed was 64.9 kilowatts a day on average."
"The new meter had been installed for three days and was averaging 19 kilowatts a day."
Shocked at this difference, the Beveridges went back to Ergon yet again, only to be told that there was nothing wrong.
Fed up, they lodged a formal complaint and before long Ergon got back to them and said the reason the meter had been replaced was because it was found to be part of a faulty batch.
"They acknowledged that there was a fault with that batch of meters and tried to compensate us $572," Mr Beveridge said.
"They re-read the meter from the correlating time 12 months ago and the difference in the quarterly bill was $572."
"So I said no, if you're going to compensate me for one quarter, I want the lot compensated - the whole six years I've been complaining, which came to a total of $17,000."
Ergon refused to meet the Beveridges on this demand, so the couple took their case to Rockhampton's Energy and Water Ombudsman.
An officer has been fighting on behalf of the Beveridges for three months but is making little leeway.
According to Mr Beveridge, it wasn't until he and his wife went back through their emails and provided the officer with records of their complaints over the years that Ergon would even admit complaints had been made.
When the Ombudsman asked for the Beveridges' old meter to be tested, the company said it had been destroyed and there was no evidence to prove the couple had been overcharged.
"They basically said we've got no evidence to prove that the meter was faulty," Mr Beveridge said.
"Except for six years' worth of bills that reach between $1200 and $1400 a quarter with the old meter and now six months' worth of bills averaging $200 a month with the new meter."
Mr Beveridge says Ergon's latest suggestion has been that an appliance must have been faulty and causing the difference, even though nothing in the house has changed in the past year except the new meter.
The Beveridges are frustrated and exhausted from the six-year ordeal and are doubtful they will ever receive full compensation.
"Even if the Ombudsman wins, they can only get us 12 months' worth of backlog," Mr Beveridge said.
"It is wrong and unfair," Mrs Beveridge said.
"Ergon is a huge company who do not care about their clients, how many other meters are out there that are not reading right?"
Ergon was contacted but would not comment on the case.
"Ergon Energy Retail does not comment on individual customers' bills or accounts," a spokesperson said.
"Ergon Energy Retail encourages customers who have questions about their bills or energy usage to call 13 10 46 to discuss their individual circumstance."