Water complaints and case studies

183 water complaints were received in Apr-Jun 2021.The highest number of complaints were complaint enquiries, as seen in the graph and table below.

Graph showing water complaints received Apr-Jun 2021. Full data in table 5 below

Table 5 — Water complaint breakdown

Complaint type Number of complaints Total %
General enquiry 2 1.15
Complaint enquiry 117 63.9%
Refer to higher level 46 25.1%
Investigated 18 9.8%
Total 183 100%

Disputed high bills were the biggest issue for water customers who contacted EWON. Other complaints relate to general enquiries and poor customer service, as seen in table 6 below.

Table 6 —Water issues – primary and secondary Apr-Jun 2021 compared with previous four quarters

Primary, secondary and tertiary issue Apr-Jun 2021 Jan-Mar 2021 Oct-Dec 2020 Jul-Sep 2020 Apr-Jun 2020
Billing > high > disputed 41 34 27 34 40
General > energy / water 27 26 37 32 30
Customer service > poor service 25 21 17 13 25
Customer service > failure to respond 18 26 18 20 26
Supply > sewerage overflow / blockage 13 10 9 8 6

Additional services offered by water providers 

Some water providers offer additional programs for residential, strata and commercial properties to assist with water savings. The programs enable customers to book a plumber through the retailer to check fixtures and fittings within the building, recommend and complete any required repair work, and suggest water efficient devices. Any fees are applied to the customer’s bill and can be paid in instalments. However, the service can be limited because of the range of materials used by the retailer, which can inconvenience the customer. 

Retailer’s plumber installs unsuitable tap

A customer had an appointment through the retailer’s plumbing assistance program to fix a leaking tap at her house. She was told by the plumber that the leak could not be fixed because the tap needed replacing. She authorised the plumber to replace the tap, however the replacement tap was not suitable for the size of the kitchen sink. She was charged $253 for the appointment and repairs. She lodged a complaint with the retailer and received confirmation that it had been submitted, but when she followed up, was advised that her complaint was not received. She then asked for her complaint to be escalated but this was declined. 

We referred the matter to the retailer at a higher level but the customer returned to EWON as she was not satisfied with the resolution offered. The retailer had offered to refund the original cost of $253 and remove the tap free of charge, however she would need to engage her own plumber to install the correct size tap and pay for this herself. The retailer told the customer that it only installs one type and size of tap and could not install another type of tap. She offered to supply her own tap, which she had already sourced and proposed that the retailer should install this for her at the time of removing the old tap but this was declined. She also asked for a customer service gesture of $200 for the inconvenience caused by the situation. 

EWON contacted the retailer which said the customer had signed paperwork which advised the total cost of the original work. The retailer offered to refund the original charge of $253, to be applied to the customer’s next water bill and agreed to send a plumber, at no cost to the customer to remove and install the tap the customer had sourced, if the tap was compatible. The retailer also offered to apply a credit of $100 to address the customer service issues that she had raised. The customer was satisfied with this outcome. 

Credit collection by water providers 

A customer received a notice from a government collection agency advising he owed $278. He said he had closed his account, paid all bills about two years prior, and had sent an application to surrender his water licence. He tried to contact the collections agency and the water provider but could not get through. He said he filled out another application to surrender his water licence and sent this to the provider. 

The matter was referred to the provider at a higher level for resolution however the customer did not receive any contact within five business days. He returned to EWON in May 2021 and said he was worried because the notice he had received from the government collections agency said his bank account would be accessed to recover the debt in June 2021. 

EWON contacted the provider which said the full payment had been received, along with the original request to surrender his water licence. The retailer said the request had not been processed correctly, and a new bill had been issued in error. The retailer completed the request to surrender the water licence from 30 June 2020 and told the government collections agency that there was nothing owing on the account. 

The customer was grateful for EWON’s assistance in quickly resolving an issue he had spent a lot of time trying to resolve himself.