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Annual Report 2016/2017

Welcome to EWON's 2016/2017 Annual Report - our holistic approach

The 2016/2017 financial year has been another busy time for EWON. Despite a small overall decrease in complaint numbers compared to the previous year, complaints increased each consecutive quarter in 2016/2017.

This year, we are exploring how each of EWON's areas, come together to provide a whole of organisation approach to consumer issues and complaint reduction. Explore more of our work this year by clicking through our statistics, or reading the articles down the right hand side of the page.

Download the PDF version [3 MB] | View the media release | View regional media releases

  • Our year at a glance
  • The big picture
  • Complaints this year
  • Complaint issues
  • Resolutions & outcomes

Cases received by EWON from 2010/2011 to 2016/2017

  • 23,613 cases received in 2016/2017
  • 1% decrease in cases received in 2015/2016

Cases received by primary issue

  • 57% of all cases involved billing issues
  • 44% of all cases involved customer service issues
  • 21% of all cases involved credit issues


Some customers experience more than one issue when they register a complaint. 


Complaints by industry

23,613 cases received

23,665 cases closed*

5,635 investigations finalised

 *More complaints were resolved than received due to complaints being carried forward from the previous financial year and resolved in the current year

How we received complaints

Following the rollout of our new online form, complaints submitted via the website have increased by 34% and now make up 15% of our total complaints received

Cases received

5,588 investigations

For the third consecutive year, our complaint numbers fell. However the 1% decrease is much less pronounced than the 22% decrease we reported in 2015/2016 and the 19% reduction in 2014/2015.

EWON received 23,613 complaints in 2016/2017 as compared to the 23,760 complaints received in 2015/2016. 

The downward trend reversed and complaints steadily increased throughout the third and fourth quarters of the financial year. Between April and June 2017 complaints received by EWON were up 21% compared to the same period in 2016, and an upward trend was established.  Breakdown of complaints: 

  • 301 general enquiries
  • 7,441 complaint enquiries
  • 10,283 cases referred back to the provider at a higher level
  • 5,588 were investigated
  • 23,665 complaints were resolved, 52 more than we received.

The proportion of electricity, gas and water complaints remained relatively consistent with 2015/2016. Electricity accounted for 74% (17,375) of all complaints, gas accounted for 23% (5,379) and water complaints remained stable at 3% (800) of our complaints.

Billing continued to be the biggest issue for our customers, with 57% (13,428) of all cases involving a billing issue, a decrease from 59% (14,109) in 2015/2016. Other significant issues were customer service, which factored in 44% of cases (up from 42% in 2015/2016), credit at 21% (down from 28%) and transfer issues at 9% (down from 12%).

We introduced digital meter exchange as a new issue in 2016/2017. This was in response to the rollout of digital meters, prior to and following the end of the Solar Bonus Scheme on 31 December 2016. Digital meter exchange issues factored in 7% (1,605) of all complaints in 2016/2017. 

Case Level by Industry

Sometimes the person contacting us is an advocate authorised to access the account. They may be a friend or a family member of the complainant or a community worker. When an advocate contacts us we seek an authority to act from the customer before investigating the complaint. Complainants can provide us with the authority to act by filling out a form or, in some cases, advising us over the phone.

How customers heard about us

25% of customers heard about us through our outreach and awareness program

Year to year comparison

Complaints by quarter from 2015/2016 to 2016/2017

Complaints between April and June 2017 rose by 21% compared to April to June 2016, reversing the downward trend

Complaints by Local Government Area (per 1000 people)


Complaints per 10,000 people by NSW region

Location of customers lodging a complaint

Retail / distribution comparison

Industry Retail/distribution 2016/2017 % Change from 2015/2016
Electricity Retailer 15,778 1%
  Distributor 959 -11%
  Exempt retailer 125 34%
  Other* 513 9%
Gas Retailer 4,952 -8%
  Distributor 384 79%
  Exempt retailer 9 29%
  Other 34 6%
Water Retailer 523 -1%
  Distributor 225 1%
  Other 52 37%
Non energy/Non water General enquiry 59 55%
TOTAL:   23,613 -1%
  • The increase in complaints about electricity and gas exempt retailers reflects the incresing number of embedded networks and exempt retailers in NSW
  • The main gas distribution complaint issues were problems with new connections, poor customer service and failure to respond

We open one case when a customer contacts us about an energy or water complaint. Customers often experience more than one complaint issue, such as a high bill and poor customer service. Therefore the number of complaint issues is greater than the number of cases we receive.

Complaints by primary issue

* Digital meter exchange became a complaint issue as a result of the Solar Bonus Scheme closure effective from 31 December 2016

26% decrease in transfer related complaints

28% increase in marketing related complaints

Electricity issues (%)

Water issues (%)

How we categorise complaint issues

Billing: high and disputed bills, fees and charges, responsibility for accounts 
Credit: disconnection, arrears, difficulty in payment, payment arrangement declined, debt collection 
Customer service: failure to respond, incorrect advice, poor attitude/service 
Digital meter exchange: delay, meter not installed, incorrect advice, failure to respond/notify, billing, terms and conditions
General: non-energy/water-related, contractors.
Land: impact of network assets, maintenance, environment 
Marketing: conduct by marketers, misleading information, pressure, non-account holder signed up 
Provision: problems with new or existing connections 
Supply: quality, damage/loss, outages 
Transfer: error in billing or transfer of account due to switching providers, contract terms, delay in transfer, site ownership

Snapshot of customer complaints and issues


13,428 complaints involved billing issues

Issue Number of complaints
High or disputed account 6,169
Estimated account, meter not read 2,761
Opening or closing account 2,098
Billing error 1,995
Fees and charges 1,174
Tariff (feed-in or TOU, prices) 1,081
Backbilling 1,009
Other 736
Delayed bill or bill not received 620
Rebate/concession 618
Billing period 616
Refund or credit 424
Meter 410
Format 148
Debt transfer 39

Customer service

10,350 complaints involved customer service issues

Issue Number of complaints
Poor service 5,233
Failure to respond 3,828
Incorrect advice or  information provided 2,041
Failure to consult or inform 1,216
Business to business 690
Unprofessional attitude 316
Privacy 157
Online 73


4,993 complaints involved credit issues

Issue Number of complaints
Payment difficulties 2,239
Collection 1,891
Disconnection / restriction 1,782


2,149 complaints involved transfer issues

Issue Number of complaints
Site ownership 597
Transfer in error 442
Contract terms 418
Transfer without consent 357
Delay 324
Billing problems 144
Request for transfer rejected 88
Cooling off rights 83

Digital meter exchange

1,605 complaints involved digital meter issues

Issue Number of complaints
Installation delays 872
Meter not installed 808
Incorrect advice or information 449
Failure to respond 324
Billing 210
Failure to notify 108
Fault 99
Terms and conditions 85
Other 70
Opt out provision 53


582 complaints involved provision issues

Issue Number of complaints
Existing connection (e.g. cost of alteration, maintenance) 298
New connection 230
Disconnection/restriction 76


514 complaints involved marketing issues

Issue Number of complaints
Misled by marketers 298
Information 103
Other 71
Pressure into signing agreement or contract 66
Non account holder approached for consent 21


410 complaints involved land issues

Issue Number of complaints
Network assets (maintenance or placement) 230
Property damage / restoration 134
Vegetation management 38
Easement 25
Other 25
Street lighting 12


403 complaints involved land issues

Issue Number of complaints
Supply off (unplanned) 188
Supply off (planned) 136
Quality 36
Supply variation 34
Sewer overflow/blockage 24
Water restriction 1

1,011 complaints involved general issues

Some customers experience more than one issue when they register a complaint

Complaint closure type from 2010/2011 to 2016/2017

Time taken to finalise complaints

90% of cases were finalised within 30 days, up from 85% in 2015/2016

No wrong door

Where a customer has not contacted their provider in the first instance, we provide advice about their rights and responsibilities and refer them to their energy or water provider. Other customers require broader assistance than what is within EWON’s jurisdiction. We work closely with other organisations and refer customers as required.

Referral Number
Energy/water provider 4,621
Community agency/ Energy Accounts Payment Assistance/water Payment Assistance Scheme 1,057
Referred to retailer hardship team 595
Financial counsellor 567
NSW Fair Trading/NSW Civil & Administrative Tribunal 442
AER/Energy Made Easy website 419
Another Ombudsman 320
Other government agency 282
Legal/tenancy adviser 186
Private contractor 182
Department/Minister for Energy/Water 79
Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal 23

1,057 referrals to community agencies

Complaint closure trends

Level 2015/2016 2016/2017 % variance
General enquiry 383 301 -21%
Complaint enquiry 6,996 7,438 6%
Refer to higher level (RHL) 9,349 10,291 10%
Level 1 investigation 5,144 3,775 -27%
Level 2 investigation 1,433 1,141 -20%
Level 3 investigation 988 719 -27%
Total 24,293 23,665 -3%

4,027 negotiated resolutions

Complaint resolutions and outcomes

Explanation of terms

General enquiry: A customer contact that may be about an energy or water matter but is not a complaint or is out of jurisdiction.
Complaint enquiry: A request for information or assistance that can be settled by EWON or referred to the provider at contact centre level for response. Some of these are also referred to other agencies.
Refer to higher level (RHL): A complaint referred to the energy or water provider’s specialist dispute resolution team, in agreement with the customer.
Investigation: EWON investigates and negotiates an outcome when a complaint has not been directly resolved between the customer and the provider.