Sumo fined for cutting off ‘wall of shame’ customers

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Electricity and gas retailer Sumo Energy ran a disconnection blitz in 2020 in which it’s alleged staff taped the names of 1,500 customers who had missed bills to a “wall of shame” and cut off 143 of them without proper warning, The Sydney Morning Herald reported.

The Victorian Essential Services Commission’s investigation into Sumo’s plan to disconnect large numbers of customers in the lead-up to the 2020 Christmas holidays has reportedly revealed a “concerning compliance culture” within the business, resulting in penalties totalling $500,000.

On December 14, 2020, Sumo allegedly disconnected 142 customers from power or gas before the legally required warning period of six business days had expired. Another customer was cut off without warning despite actively participating in a payment plan, the investigation alleges.

Related article: Sumo Power takes $1.2m hit for misleading plans

Commissioner Kate Symons said electricity and gas were essential services, and customers should only ever be disconnected by a retailer as a “measure of last resort”.

She said the investigation found Sumo had developed a plan to disconnect 1500 customers by Christmas and had altered customers’ billing schedules to fast-track disconnections and cut short the time required to allow customers to seek help.

“It had the names of customers that Sumo sought to disconnect taped to a wall that staff referred to as the “wall of shame”. It set up a separate telephone queue and staff were instructed to transfer customers calling about an actual or pending disconnection to that queue. Call wait times were long, an average of 45 minutes, with some customers eventually hanging up,” Commissioner Symons said.

“Customers being disconnected from essential services in this way is completely unacceptable.”

Read the full article here.

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