Fair Go: How many companies does it take to change a Wellington street light bulb?

How many times have you taken a small problem, phoned a call centre and felt completely powerless when it gets you nowhere?

Alan Knowles had a small problem – his street light had gone out.

"I would like my bulb replaced," he said.

Alan had been in the dark, navigating a steep path down to his house since Christmas and no amount of calling was changing that.

Trouble was, the bulb is a legal but private street light he'd paid to have fitted to a Wellington City Council pole in the early 1990s.

Alan had been paying Genesis Energy for at least a decade to keep the light on. A monthly charge on his bill of six or seven dollars covered everything.

"The maintenance in 25, or 26 or 27 years has been changing one bulb," Mr Knowles said.

Round after round of calls to Genesis, the Council, and five other companies brought little joy.

"All I get is the call centre people and anybody on the staff is hiding behind the wall of call centre people. They don’t seem to care about people with little problems like mine," Mr Knowles said.

So, he dropped Fair Go a line instead.

Within nine hours, a problem that had dragged out over nine months was sorted in a blaze of brand new LED lighting.

Alan was jubilant. Fair Go likes to dig deeper and happily, so does the Council and Genesis.

Wellington City Council said it was, "really sorry that Mr Knowles has had to go through his ordeal".

Carefully omitting any blame, its statement added:

"Mr Knowles appears to have been the unwitting victim of information not properly shared between a number of organisations."

Genesis told Fair Go the Council had decided on its own initiative to take responsibility for Mr Knowles' streetlight - six years ago.

Genesis’ spokesman says the Council hadn’t told anyone when it did so, leaving records out of date; but admits Genesis hadn’t chased it up either.

"For Genesis' role, we're sorry for that," Genesis’ James Magill said.

"I'd like to have thought we could have been more proactive in finding a solution so, hands up we're very sorry and we can get better," Mr Magill said.

Of course, this also means Genesis has been charging Alan for six years for something the Council was meant to be providing for free.

Genesis offered Alan a refund of all charges plus interest and he accepted.

To make Alan’s joy complete, the Council says it will keep the light on and cover the cost.

Too many it seems, until Fair Go gets involved that is. Source: Fair Go

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