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Covering the Goulburn and Murray valleys

Legal action uncovers G-MW fee error

G-MW has apologised to thousands of irrigators after discovering a nine year old charge that has been levied incorrectly.

GEOFF ADAMS June 11, 2013 4:06am

Ian Phillips from Invergordon is in the middle of legal action against G-MW.


Thousands of irrigators will get a refund from a charge that Goulburn-Murray Water has incorrectly applied for almost nine years.

The ‘legal fee’ was charged to about 3400 accounts of customers which had been referred to G-MW’s debt management agency.

G-MW has apologised for the error.

However, at least one irrigator affected by the charge is pressing on with legal action against G-MW and wants to gather more irrigators to launch a class action.

G-MW said the incorrect charge was discovered during legal action and Invergordon farmer Ian Phillips believes his legal challenge over an overdue account was responsible for the back-down.

He said he refused to pay the charge when it was levied on a late account last year and during the legal action G-MW had cut off his irrigation, costing him about $200000 for the season.

Mr Phillips hasn’t paid the outstanding charge and is continuing his legal action.

Mr Phillips claims the water corporation didn’t follow the processes of its own debt management policies.

‘‘My water was cut off while this complaint was raised and they are not supposed to do this under the Essential Services Commission rules.’’

In a letter written in December, a G-MW manager said the process applied to Mr Phillips had been reviewed and approved.

Mr Phillips, angry at how he had been treated by G-MW, said the dispute could have been resolved much earlier.

‘‘They need to change their culture and get a bit more customer friendly.’’

He has advertised for other irrigators in a similar situation to contact him or his solicitor.

‘‘This is not finished.’’

G-MW said the legal fees ranged from $5 to $36 and reimbursement would cost an estimated $34000.

Irrigators will not be paid interest on the money owed to them.

Head of customer support Philip Hoare said G-MW was sorry for any confusion or concern caused by the charge.

‘‘G-MW is working hard to enhance the customer experience and values the business of all its customers,’’ Mr Hoare said.

‘‘We apologise unreservedly for the error.

‘‘We would ask that any customer who is unclear about the charge or the credit that has been applied, to their customer account are encouraged to contact G-MW.’’

A G-MW spokesperson said once the incorrect charge was discovered the corporation moved quickly investigate the issue and sought advice on the validity of the charge. Once that advice confirmed that the charge had been applied in error G-MW sought to rectify the mistake immediately.

Asked if any irrigators lost access to water because they refused to pay the legal service fee only, the spokesperson said this would not have happened.

Legal Services Board chief executive officer Michael McGarvie said he was aware of the incorrect charge but his board had no direct involvement in the issue.

He said he was aware of G-MW’s action in dealing with the repayment and was satisfied with the process.

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