Aug 03, 2018

Woman living with dementia in nursing home issued with $4,000 worth of power bills

An 86-year-old resident of a Melbourne nursing home has been issued with electricity bills to the value of more than $4,000, after it appears she was cold called by the utility company and signed up for an account.

When Joan Ford, who lives at View Hills Manor nursing home in Melbourne’s Endeavour Hills, received an electricity bill for $1,384, her family were understandably concerned.

Ms Ford’s nursing home fees cover electricity, and the family weren’t able to determine any electricity meter that could be read in order to determine the bill. The bill was sent to Ms Ford at the nursing home address.

Her son in law, Mark Matthys, wondered how this was even possible.

“How on earth would it even be possible to make up an account for a person who doesn’t actually have anything to pay for,” he told the ABC.

Ms Ford, who is living with early stage dementia, told her family she knew nothing of the electricity account.

The family told the ABC they expect the account was signed up to following a cold call.

After Ms Ford’s family contacted 1st Energy, they were told the matter would be fixed. But the family later received two reminder notices, was contacted by a collections agency, and was issued with another bill for $2,584, according to the ABC.

Nursing home residents can join do-not-call register: Ombudsman

The case has been referred to the electricity ombudsman.

Victorian energy and water ombudsman, Cynthia Gebert, told the ABC it was “concerning” it appears the energy company had cold called a resident in a nursing home.

She also said it was also worrying that 1st Energy’s initial attempts to resolve the matter were unsuccessful.

Ms Gebert suggested that vulnerable people, such as nursing home residents, should join the Do Not Call Register. The register is a free government service where consumers can register their home, mobile or fax numbers to reduce the number of unsolicited telemarketing calls they receive.

The Register is aimed at helping to prevent nuisance calls, and also can protect the vulnerable from falling prey to unscrupulous operators.

Matter is now resolved

A spokesperson from 1st Energy told the ABC that Ms Ford does not have to pay her bill, and apologised to her and her family, putting the incident down to “human error”.

The matter has now been “fully resolved”, it said.

Sign up for the Do Not Call Register.

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