Our 2019 Independent Review recommended that we expand our systemic issues work to include a focus on specific energy or water sector-wide issues. Our third Spotlight On report brought to light the gap in energy consumer protections experienced by an increasing number of NSW residents. There are currently 49,000 residents who live in apartments with hot water supplied by embedded network operators and retailers who bill based on kiloliters of hot water used. 

By comparison, over 250,000 apartment households are billed for the energy used to heat their hot water via their energy retail gas bill. These households are covered by the National Energy Consumer Framework (NECF) and can access rebates and/or concessions. Since the release of this important report, we have hosted two successful workshops with senior staff from the Australian Energy Market Commission, the Australian Energy Regulator (AER), Department of Planning Industry and Environment and the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal to examine the problem and work towards a solution. I would like to thank those who contributed to analysing the viability of EWON’s proposed solutions and we look forward to achieving the best resolution for consumers in the near future.

The AER’s Statement of Expectations (SoE), introduced in April 2020 to support customers in lockdown or otherwise affected by COVID-19, was due to finish at the end of FY21. Wisely, the AER recognised the COVID crisis is far from over and had a standby approach at hand. Energy consumers in Greater Sydney, Orange and surrounding towns were the first to receive this ongoing support. Greater Sydney consumers may be reliant on the standby SoE for some time, and we will continue to encourage them to engage with retailers and where required, establish affordable payment plans.

Throughout the 2020-2021 financial year, complaints were lower than forecast with the 3,800 complaints received until the April – June quarter bringing the total for the year to 16,068.

In this EWON Insights we focus our attention on debt collection, a complaint issue we expect to re-emerge when collection activity recommences later in the 2021-2022 financial year. We also look at disconnections resulting from transfer errors and/or when customers open new accounts.

Stay well everyone.

Janine Young
Energy & Water Ombudsman NSW

Photo of Janine Young, Energy & Water Ombudsman NSW