TRADERS at Mt Martha who lost revenue and were forced to cut staff hours and reschedule appointments during the Thursday 25 July power cut are claiming compensation from United Energy.
Lyndal Barnes, of Mr Curtis Cafe, said traders have asked the Ombudsman to negotiate with United Energy rather than pursue a costly class action.
“We were told early on that we couldn’t sue United Energy because it was an essential service,” she said.
While Ms Barnes said United Energy had indicated it was “quite open” to the issue of compensation, the power provider’s Emma Tyner yesterday (Monday) said: “United Energy has more than 685,000 customers and, in the interests of ensuring network charges remain affordable for the average household, we do not provide compensation for planned outages. We do provide notification to allow time for businesses and residential customer to make alternative arrangements.”
About 41 businesses were affected when United Energy cut power to removed a power pole to improve views across Port Phillip for a house being built alongside the heritage-listed Green Gables near the Dominion Road and Esplanade corner (“Power outage outrage” The News 30/7/19).
While many of the traders received the required four days’ notice of the outage, some didn’t, and the cost of a missing day’s trade, lost wages, hiring generators and rescheduling appointments could run as high as $500,000.
“United Energy was totally dismissive of our situation, which is just unacceptable,” Ms Barnes said.
Possibly stung by the flak it received, United Energy said it “will be conducting a full review into the planned outage and [we] are looking for ways to improve how we operate”.
The spokesperson said that as an essential service, United Energy was required under regulations to conduct customer work when requested. “This work occurs in all parts of our network almost every day and we always seek to minimise the impact to customers,” she said.
“In this case the majority of customers affected were residential. If we had done this work at night, customers would not have had lighting or heating and the noise from heavy machinery and glare from safety lighting would have been very disruptive to people in surrounding homes.”
In the first half of this year, United Energy says it conducted 2002 planned jobs which required 1185 planned outages in its network, with 815 being “conducted safely under live conditions”.