22 August 2011

Ipswich councillor Paul Tully calls for boycott as flood victims slugged with massive power bills

Goodna re-builds - 4 months after the floods and the Ipswich suburb of Goodna is still re-building,
with many people still homeless.
DESTROYED homes and businesses are being sent massive power bills seven months after January's floods in what one community leader claims is a blatant rip-off.

Goodna businessman Lubo Jonic says Origin Energy has demanded $889 for electricity at a destroyed service station.

Ipswich councillor Paul Tully, who has also received a bill of more than $1000, is urging a community boycott.

"I am encouraging all Origin customers who've been ripped off not to pay their bills until this mess is sorted out," Cr Tully said.

Origin has asked for patience and vowed to investigate any billing problems thoroughly.

Mr Jonic says meters at his service station were destroyed by flood waters and he believes the bill, which arrived last week, is based on past electricity use.

But apart from power required for tools during renovation work, very little electricity had been used, he said.

Mr Jonic contacted Origin last Wednesday to complain.

"They told me they were doing me a favour because the estimate was low," he said.

Mr Jonic is reluctant to pay what he believes is an unfair charge and predicts others will also baulk at paying for something they had not used.

Cr Tully, who has been billed for more than $1000 at his home destroyed by flood waters, says he believes Origin is using past bills to charge for properties where meters were destroyed.

"I am calling on Origin to withdraw all of these bills and write off the amounts as a gesture of good faith for their unconscionable conduct," he said. Cr Tully had two electricity meters in one meter box at his home at Lowe St, Goodna. Both stopped about 8pm on Tuesday, January 1, after two metres of water submerged the property.

Cr Tully said the meters had not been reactivated in seven months and supply was disconnected within a few days of the flood as a safety precaution.

An account for $1060.4 and dated August 10, 2011, arrived last week. Cr Tully said he accepted the account was for the billing period to the end of January, but believed the bill should be much less.

"It was a particularly cool summer with lots of rain, keeping fan and air-con use down compared to previous summers," he said. "Electricity use was obviously interrupted by the flood itself. Origin is defrauding the people of Ipswich and Brisbane when they must know that the estimated usage is grossly overstated."

As the floods hit, Origin suspended up to 700,000 Queensland accounts as it was unclear how many customers would be affected.

In many cases it was impossible for distributors to access premises to read meters.

About 4000 electrical accounts have now been identified as being flood affected.

Origin is believed to have waived debts of some flood-affected customers and assisted with applications to the Department of Communities Home Energy Assistance scheme.


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