Tuesday, September 3, 2019

A case study in how to piss off your customers

This is one for my bulging "Doesn't it piss you off when you get dicked around" file. It's an email I sent this morning to Grey Power Electricity and its partner, Pulse Energy.

I am a Grey Power Electricity customer. 
Several weeks ago I was advised by letter of scheduled power outages on Sunday August 11, Monday August 12 and Monday September 2.
The first two outages took place more or less as scheduled. As I work from home these were a major inconvenience [for the benefit of blog readers, the power went off at 9am and was supposed to come back on at 3.15pm], but I was prepared to accept that.
I say “more or less as scheduled” because the outage on August 12 was supposed to end at 3.15pm but continued until after 6pm, causing further inconvenience.
Yesterday’s outage was supposed to start at 9am and continue until 3pm. Accordingly, I made sure that all the work I would normally do on a Monday was completed during the weekend, which disrupted my normal leisure time. It was a lovely weekend and I would have preferred to be in the garden.
As it turned out, the outage never happened. I was advised of this in a phone call that I received at 1.55pm, nearly five hours after the power was supposed to be turned off.
Needless to say, the call was useless. I had gone to Palmerston North for the day – not because I needed to, but because it would have been pointless staying home with no power. In other words, it was a completely wasted day.
It’s hard to see any explanation for this other than poor planning and/or incompetence. If the outage was cancelled, why couldn’t consumers have been advised earlier, when there was still time to re-arrange commitments for the day?
I write to request two things:
1. An explanation as to why I wasn’t notified of the cancellation until it was far too late to be of any use; and
2.  An offer of compensation for the inconvenience caused and time wasted.
Yours sincerely,
Karl du Fresne

It's possible the blame is shared by Powerco, which I believe was doing the work that necessitated the outage, but as the retailer it appears to be the responsibility of Grey Electricity/Pulse to keep customers informed.


Andy Espersen said...

You did not inform us whether your power company is a consumer owned company or a privately owned one - neither did you let on whether, in your experience, this incident was a one-off. My line company here (Network Tasman) is ALWAYS spot on with their timing advice - and we have very brief interruptions, never lasting more than one day, perhaps once a year. I admit to being biased about this : when all this was decided on (under Rogernomics) we here were lucky, I think, that our line company was not privatised. No, nobody here received shares - but instead consumers now receive very considerable yearly bonuses to lighten their power bills.
I wonder : Generally speaking, is there a difference in the quality of service given by the two types of ownership?? Perhaps we, your many readers, should do a survey among ourselves (??).

Ruaridh said...

Best to stick with the big boys (oops, “persons”!) in the power supply business even if they hurt your pocket a bit more? “Just saying” (as the current argot has it).

hughvane said...

Years ago I sought redress in the matter of Supply Charge, when in fact power was not being supplied, courtesy of a succession of scheduled power outages. We were given due notice, but there was no mention of a halt to supply charge.

I took the issue up with the (then) supply company but was told there was "nothing in the Contract" regarding suspension of supply, and the charge for it, so I referred it to the Commerce Commission. Was it reasonable, and correct in law, to charge customers for something they were not receiving?

A very sympathetic employee of the CommComm phoned me to discuss the situation. In essence he said I was possibly on the right side of the law, and interpretation thereof, but it would require a Court hearing and intervention. One can imagine the cost of and delay to such a solution, so I let it go.

Good luck with your battle, nihil illegitimae carborundum!