EWON and AER reach out to customers in private electricity networks as energy prices rise

13 December 2022  

The Australian Energy Market Commission estimates that one in 10 Australians live in embedded networks - private electricity networks that supply multiple homes or businesses, like apartment complexes.

The operators of embedded networks buy energy for the entire complex from the grid and then on-sell to residents which may mean these customers have less access to market competition and consumer protections in relation to continuity of supply and life support equipment.

Mandatory membership of embedded network operators to the Energy & Water Ombudsman NSW (EWON) was introduced four years ago and now 293 embedded network operators are members of EWON – providing residents in those complexes, access to free, fair and independent dispute resolution.

Today, EWON and the Australian Energy Regulator (AER) will launch a co-branded, multilingual campaign aimed at increasing awareness for residents in embedded networks of their right to contact EWON to resolve disputes.

The online awareness campaign focuses on residential complexes and retirement villages with translated communications materials available in six languages.

"Billing concerns made up 80 per cent of complaints raised by residents in embedded networks to EWON in the last financial year - indicating that customers need our help.  But many residents are not aware of their right to complain to us,” says Energy & Water Ombudsman NSW, Janine Young. “As the embedded network industry has grown, the energy environment has become more complex.”

EWON’s expertise and complaints data was requested to inform the recent NSW Legislative Assembly Committee inquiry into law and safety in embedded networks.

"Energy prices are rising for all customers in NSW, but customers within embedded networks are particularly exposed due to the lack of retailer choice and many aren't protected by the Default Market Offer,” Ms Young said.

AER Chair Ms Clare Savage welcomed the joint awareness campaign to connect consumers living in embedded networks with Ombudsman Schemes, noting it is a compliance and enforcement priority for the AER and a key action in its recently launched Towards Energy Equity strategy.

“We hear from consumer advocates about customers experiencing vulnerability in embedded networks,” Ms Savage said. 

“We have been working with EWON to increase awareness of dispute resolution options for these customers and this multilingual education campaign will help promote this important consumer right.”

Images available on request.

To request an interview with the Ombudsman please email Fran Strachan, Manager Communications & Outreach or call 0429 416 070.