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Power Board agrees to refund person who was unaware of power-saving switch

Ombudsmen Act 1975
Legislation display text:
Ombudsmen Act 1975
Power Board
Sir John Robertson
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Failure to charge for water heating power supply at appropriate rate—installation of system entitling consumer to concessionary rate not notified to power supply authority—no fault of complainant or authority—authority had benefit of power savings

The complainant in this case had occupied a house for some sixteen years. Shortly before he complained, he discovered that he had been paying for his water heating power supply at the full domestic rate over the years, although the system installed in the house was such that he would have been entitled to a power supply at a reduced rate.

The water heating system had been installed before the complainant took up residence in the house, and the power supply authority’s records confirmed that a permit was obtained for its installation. There was, however, no record of the installation of the special switch that would have entitled the complainant to the lower tariff rate.

Some years before the Ombudsman’s investigation, the complainant had approached an employee of the power supply authority over the cost of his water heating and the problem was traced to a leaking pipe. There seems to have been no check of the records at that time to ensure he was paying for his power supply at the appropriate rate.

It was established during the course of this investigation that the special switch had been installed before the complainant took up residence, but that its installation had apparently never been notified to the supply authority who consequently refused to accept any liability to refund the amounts overpaid.

The Ombudsman concluded that although the authority was not at fault in charging at the higher rate, at least up until the time that the complainant made enquiries about the cost of his power supply, it had nonetheless had the benefits in power savings that the concessionary tariff was intended to achieve, and that it might consider at least a partial refund to the complainant on that basis.

The manager of the authority then reviewed the matter and offered to make a full refund of the difference between the two tariffs from the time the complainant queried the cost of his water heating and a partial refund in respect of the earlier period. This was regarded as a satisfactory basis on which to conclude this investigation.


Power Boards no longer exist, however many aspects of power transmission, generation and retail remain under government ownership as State Owned Enterprises.

This case note is published under the authority of the Ombudsmen Rules 1989. It sets out an Ombudsman’s view on the facts of a particular case. It should not be taken as establishing any legal precedent that would bind an Ombudsman in future.

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