A letter to Origin Energy

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UPDATE: I have just heard from Kym Diercks at Origin, and called Veda to confirm it, but the defaults have now been removed from my credit report. Not just marked as paid, but completely removed. It only took three weeks, endless hours on hold, about $50 in long-distance phone calls, an ombudsman investigation, a Veda investigation, and lots of swearing.

Thanks to everyone who followed along with the saga, and provided support and encouragement. This isn't over yet, as I still want to contest the legality of them actually getting any money out of me at all, but that's between me and the ombudsman now.

Oh, and if anyone from Origin Energy is reading this post: you suck. Hard.

UPDATE: After some serious sleuthing, we managed to speak to a certain Kym Diercks at Origin. He told me that they have requested the defaults be removed and that they were waiting for confirmation from Veda (the credit reporting company). In other words, virtually nothing—which was more or less expected. However, the plot thickens ... I called Veda and asked them about their processes—how things work with payments, what notifications are sent, all that stuff—and it turns out that they don't issue confirmations. So $DEITY only knows what Kym at Origin is waiting for ...

I'm pissed off enough that I've been googling for other people with Origin issues. This one made me laugh: Origin Energy- experts at wasting your time.

UPDATE: After I spent another hour on hold this afternoon, my partner gave it another try and managed to speak to someone at head office. He got her email address and forwarded her the email I sent on Monday, along with this note. I haven't been called yet ...
As discussed this afternoon on the phone, the below was sent on Monday.
Monday afternoon, there was a phone call from an Aaron who would not give his last name who claimed the default would be removed.
It has not been.
Since then, Lana has spent at least two hours on long distance phone calls, being put on hold while calls are transferred, then never answered and eventually, your phone system hangs up.
Yesterday, the longest phone call lasted 42 minutes. Today, 65 minutes.

The Energy Ombudsman case file on this matter is 2010/11/01104.

Origin are not doing very well in maintaining any image of professionalism in this matter.

I request that someone with the authority to remedy the situation call Lana on [redacted]. Clearly, calling Origin Energy seems to be a waste of our time and money.

UPDATE: I have now broken my previous record for waiting on hold ... 1 hour and 5 minutes before they hung up on me this time! Perhaps a new record tomorrow, I'll keep you posted!

UPDATE: I've contacted the Energy Ombudsman about this matter now. For posterity, the reference number is 2010/11/01104. They will give Origin ten days to remove the default. Then we get to argue about the legality of enforcing a payment that was due over twelve months ago ... !

UPDATE: We did receive a phone call from a man who would not give his full name. It was the generic "yes, hello, we got your email and we're doing something about it" kind of call that makes me think they're lying to me. I'll believe that they're doing something when I have some proof of it.

Subject: An unfulfilled need that creates the best opportunity

Good morning

My name is Lana Brindley and I have never been a customer of Origin Energy.
Despite this, your company is largely responsible for upsetting my Christmas dinner plans, and so I am writing this in the hope someone there will show some initiative, fix the issue, and save Christmas.

I will start with some history.
In 2007 I lived in Annerley in Brisbane. While there I was the customer of a power company whose name was not important enough for me to remember. I left Annerley in December 2007 and moved to Canberra. My housemate in Annerley stayed. He was also a work colleague, so I was in regular contact with him and he sent me batches of mail every few weeks. This meant that I could finalise any outstanding bills and notify everyone of my new address.

At some point my former electricity supplier was acquired by Origin Energy. I knew nothing of this, of course.

At this point I will note that I have never - even now after several weeks of this saga, and several weeks of promises to provide one - seen any bill or correspondence from your company.

It appears that at some point, though, Origin decided that I owed them two lots of $495.

The only reason that I worked this much out is because I applied to extend my mortgage to refurbish my kitchen. The bank declined the extension, because of the defaults that Origin put on my credit record. Which means that my kitchen will now not be fixed before Christmas. I’m a bit upset about that. My daughter was a bit upset too, when I told her that Christmas was going to be cancelled this year.

But I guess there’s no chance of Origin coming to my place to cook the roast.

For starters, I can’t work out how any company can put defaults against my credit record without me knowing who the company is, how much is owed, or even that I owed any money. When I pressed one of your customer escalations team, they told me that my account history shows that they have never contacted me about the outstanding account.

This might be another good time to mention that I have never received a bill from Origin Energy. I have never received a reminder notice, or a phone call. And considering that my mobile number has not changed since last century, I should be easy enough to track down.

So, apparently, Origin Energy have been unable to contact me. Interestingly, I seem oddly unable to contact Origin as well. I have spoken to exactly two people about the incident. One who shared my account number and told me there was only one debt. And another who kindly provided some BPay details so I could pay the bill. Each time has required a wait on hold for over fifteen or twenty minutes. Immediately prior to penning this letter, I was on hold for 45 minutes before the call dropped out. You might agree that this can make one a little frustrated.

I have been promised bills so I could pay the outstanding amounts. They have not been received.
I have been promised that the defaults would be removed. This has not happened.
I have been promised that there is only one outstanding amount. My bank would disagree.
I have paid one amount. No one seems to know anything about that, though.

So, I have some questions:
- How much do I owe Origin Energy?
- What do I owe Origin Energy for?
- Has my payment of $494.90 (18 November, Receipt Number [redacted]) been received and credited?
- What efforts have Origin Energy made to recover this outstanding amount?
- What is Origin Energy going to do about this whole debacle?

Could someone with the capacity to finalise the matter in a timely and professional way please do so?
In time to save Christmas?
How about someone give me a call? I promise I won’t put you on hold for 45 minutes, and then hang up.

Lana Brindley
Account numbers (from the credit report): [redacted] & [redacted]
Phone: [redacted]

After posting this, I received a response from the lovely Ben Dechrau. It's too long to fit in a comment, so I've reproduced it here:

Hi Lana! Just got your link to this page and thought I'd share my
experience with your readers rather than just you.

I recently received a default from Origin for not paying a bill they sent
to the wrong address. I moved in to a property (let's call it B) in
February, from a previous house (A) and then moved to house C in June.

I called Origin Energy to inform them I was moving out, organised a final
reading and gave them the address for house C. They sent one bill (gas or
electricity) to house C, and the other to house A.

The one that was sent to house A was obviously never received, and was
sent way after the postal redirection stopped. They never once called me or
checked their system for other addresses. They simply slapped a default on
my credit report.

I found this out when applying for a new credit card. Luckily I had it
removed before I applied for a new mortgage two weeks later.

How to have it removed. Lana - I see you've done most of what I'd do
already, so for the benefit of any other readers:

In addition to determination, you'll need a stern voice, unwavering belief
that you will have it removed, Veda's phone number (1300 921 621) and
Origin's direct line phone number (02 9271 4947).

Call Veda and ask them for the account number or reference number Origin
have marked your default with. You'll need your name, address and date of
birth to identify yourself with them.

Call Origin and ask the person who answers the phone to understand that
you're very angry right now, but that you realise they want to help and
would they please excuse any raised voice - you will try and stay calm.
This in my case was true, but also puts the other person in a position of
power - you have acknowledged you are relying on their help. It also means
they can empathise with you, which makes them want to help you.

Tell them you have a default that was erroneously placed on your credit
report with the account number blah. They will look it up. Explain the
situation and ask to be put through to the legal and payments department.

Now depending on your situation you will either owe them money, or you
don't. In my case I did, I paid and was told the default would be removed
because it was their fault. One week later I called Veda and confirmed this

If you don't believe the outstanding amount is your responsibility, you
will need determine what the fees are for. Give them your current address
and ask for a copy of the invoice.

Once you receive this, check all dates to determine if you lived at the
property at the time of the bill or not. If you are liable, I'd just pay
and get the default removed.

If you're not, get your evidence together. Find out when you moved out.
Call Origin as a new, separate call, and ask the person who answers if they
can help confirm a move-out request was made. Get any reference numbers.
Note the time of the call and the person with whom you spoke. Get a copy of
your rental agreement and bond refund letter to corroborate move-out dates.
Once you have lots of evidence, phone up and ask for the fax number of the
customer support department. Don't get in touch with legal yet. Fax it
through, clearly labelled with a cover page. Call within 10 minutes and ask
them to check the fax machine and confirm receipt. When you get this (you
might be asked to call back later depending on where the fax machine is)
start talking to the rep to get them to start documenting the information
ion your account. This will help when you talk to legal later.

Ask them to put you through to legal. Note: the people who work in the
legal and payments department are, based on the experience I had with Con,
self-entitled, rude and arrogant. Don't expect them to help you
voluntarily. I recommend taking a confused and innocent approach to put
them in a false sense of security. Tell them you don't know why this amount
is outstanding, and can they check your account for any confirmation on
move out dates. Have a copy of the invoice handy so you can point out the
date the bill is for, and that you moved out before that. Con told me that
he'd remove the default for me - no admission of guilt or apology, but hey
- a means to an end! Sell your dignity for a few minutes and get 7 years of
good credit back.

Now: Lana - you've tried a lot already, so if I were you, I'd call every
morning at about 10am. If you call last thing they'll want to fob you off
and go home. Call too early and you'll compete with everyone else and
they'll still be waking up. Call, ask them to look up your account, ask
them when you can expect to have the default removed (hopefully it's
mentioned they will do this on your account - ask for it to be added if not
and follow the process). Keep at this every day and soon the call centre
staff will know you and want to get you out of their faces.

Persistence is key, closely followed by coming across as confused and
innocent. Put them in a position of power and authority, make then feel you
are dependent on their help, act innocent and the natural instinct to
protect will be awoken.

Best of luck to anyone else who's going through this...


Jude said...

Oh I love it all . Make sure you tweet the updates to this, I want to know the outcome! And good luck.

Loquacity said...

Thanks Jude! I'll keep you posted :)


Jude said...


Sarah said...

Wow Lana I thought my experience with Origin was bad. Such incredibly poor customer service, They only replied to my (repeated) inquiries after I contacted the ombudsman- this was after they had sent me a letter threatening legal action. I'm glad your issue was finally resolved, but it's mind-boggling how crappy their service is!

Loquacity said...

Thanks Sarah. It seems as though I am far from alone with Origin woes. I think the big message is that if you are dealing with Origin, don't stuff around, go straight to the ombudsman in your state. It's the only thing that makes them sit up and listen.


Anonymous said...

This simply cannot be allowed to go on. Origin need to be accountable for the stress and time it is costing people. It thinks it's time for three things:
(1) Origin Energy unhappy customers web site. To compare much needed notes.
(2) Our 'own' energy retailer. A co-op.
(3) Slater & Gordon, for the class action.

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