Cost of living pressures send more customers to EWON

11 October 2023

The Energy and Water Ombudsman NSW (EWON) Annual Report 2022/2023, released today, reports 17,852 complaints received in 2022/2023, a 22% increase compared with 2020/2021.  

The steep rise in complaints can be largely attributed to external cost of living pressures combined with significant energy price rises. EWON is now on track to receiving a further 49% increase in complaints this financial year. 

Billing complaints continued to be the most significant issue raised by consumers in NSW. 

  • 11,972 billing complaints, up by 27% from last year, including: 
  • 5,359 complaints about disputed high bills, up 35%  
  • 406 complaints about price increases, nearly four times higher than last year. 

Energy & Water Ombudsman NSW, Janine Young said this pressure has affected a growing cohort of energy and water customers, with many facing affordability challenges for the first time. The number of customers accessing affordability programs has risen by 24% and those on payment plans has increased by 12%. With costs rising in every aspect of life, more and more customers are seeking EWON’s support. 

Credit related complaints which include disconnection, payment difficulties and debt collection were the second biggest issue. 

  • 1,712 credit complaints, up by 11% from last year, including: 
  • 713 complaints about disconnection or restriction, up 25% 
  • 382 complaints about debt collection, up 11%.  

“The increase in credit complaints paints a concerning picture when we look at the real-life circumstances behind the complaint. Customers are accruing more debt and run the risk of being disconnected or credit listed if they can’t keep on top of their bills,” Ms Young said. 

“It’s more important than ever for energy retailers to be proactive in reaching out to consumers experiencing affordability issues, to offer the support they are entitled to, and to make sure customers are receiving the best deal, ideally the lowest cost for their circumstances,” Ms Young said. 

Electricity accounted for 77% of total complaints and gas 18%. Complaints about water continued to be very low at just 4% of all complaints.