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Australia

Unclaimed compensation for Australia Day outages sits at $382,520

Thousands of customers who sweltered through blackouts during the Australia Day weekend in 2018 are yet to cash more than $382,000 in compensation cheques.

On January 28 and 29 last year, almost 95,000 Victorians lost power as a record-testing heatwave sparked the biggest surge in power consumption the state had seen on a Sunday.

Thousands of customers are yet to cash their compensation cheques following blackouts during the Australia Day weekend in 2018.

Thousands of customers are yet to cash their compensation cheques following blackouts during the Australia Day weekend in 2018. Credit:Bloomberg

On what was one of the hottest January nights on record, with temperatures failing to dip below 27.8 degrees, the outages left many without cooling.

The chorus of complaints after some customers were left without power for as long as 30 hours saw the government broker a deal with the state's five electricity distributors to deliver a $5 million heat relief package.

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After an audit of the payments process this year, the Essential Services Commission revealed on Tuesday that 4625 of the 50,000 customers who were entitled to compensation and had been sent cheques had not cashed them.

“Payments ranged from $80 to $180 based on how long customers were without power, with some
customers reportedly being off supply for days during an extreme heat spell,” said the commission's chairman Ron Ben-David.

The record-breaking 2018 heatwave saw the power grid crumble. A review conducted by the government later found the outages were not caused by lack of supply but by a series of local failures with the privately owned distribution networks.

Of those without power, 1218 had life-support equipment at their premises.

The company with the highest number of unclaimed cheques is Powercor, which covers the western suburbs of Melbourne and the state's west. It also had the highest number of customers without supply on January 28 last year due to a fault at a substation at Drysdale.

About 2426 cheques totaling $200,000 are yet to be banked from Powercor customers.

United Energy, covering the southern suburbs and Mornington Peninsula, have 1339 cheques worth $114,000 which still haven't been deposited.

And AusNet Services, CitiPower and Jemena also have hundreds of uncashed cheques.

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The compensation packages announced by the government and the distributors were in addition to the "guaranteed service level" payments, which normally only apply when customers lose supply for more than 12 hours.

The commission says customers who believe they are eligible for the compensation payments but haven't received a cheque need to contact their distributor.

The cheques expire at the end of this month, a spokesman said.

However, if customers have not cashed them by then they can still claim the money by contacting their distributor.

On Australia Day this year, Victorians endured a similar heatwave.

Temperatures in Melbourne hit 42 degrees, and more than 200,000 homes had their electricity switched off during the afternoon.

Simone is a breaking news reporter for The Age. Most recently she covered breaking news for The Australian in Melbourne.

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