Water complaints and case studies

Water complaints make up approximately 4% of the complaints that EWON receives and contain a wide range of issues. 

Table 5 —Water issues April to June 2022 including the previous four quarters

Primary and secondary issue Apr-Jun 2022 Jan-Mar 2022 Oct-Dec 2021 Jul- Sep 2021 Apr-Jun 2021
Customer service > poor service 30 19 32 19 25
Billing > high > disputed 26 26 37 44 41
General > energy / water 23 19 18 29 27
Land > property damage / restoration 19 6 10 10 11
Supply > sewer overflow / blockage 16 11 10 6 13
Land > network assets > maintenance 16 15 7 3 7

Table 6 — Water complaint breakdown, April to June 2022

Complaint type Number of complaints % total water complaints
General enquiry 3 1.7%
Complaint enquiry 84 46.9%
Refer to higher level 65 36.3%
Investigated 27 15.1%
Total 179 100%

General water case studies

Case Study: Disputed wastewater charges for a mixed-use development

An advocate advised EWON that her parents own and live in a residential property that is attached to a shop, which they rent out to a business owner. The advocate complained that the water provider was billing her parents’ residential property for wastewater usage charges, which are only applicable to business customers. She had complained to the provider on behalf of her parents and was waiting on an outcome. EWON advised her to allow the provider to respond to the complaint in the first instance. 

The advocate contacted EWON again after the provider advised that the wastewater usage charges could only be stopped if the property was subdivided through the local council. The advocate said the property was classed as mixed-use and her parents should not have to pay these charges under the water provider’s own policy. 

We referred the matter to the provider for resolution at a higher level with the advocate’s agreement, and told her she could return to us if she was unhappy with the outcome. 

The customer returned to EWON as the complaint remained unresolved. EWON contacted the provider and requested more information about the wastewater charges. The provider advised EWON that it was aware that the current business, a café, started operating eight months earlier and they were in the process of reviewing the wastewater charges that were billed prior to the business opening. It advised that the customer would continue to receive wastewater charges under their policy because the business and residence were part of a single dwelling, and could not be separated for water billing even though there were separate water meters. This is because water charges are based on the property title, not who the customer is.  

Following EWON’s request for a further review, the provider visited the property and further reviewed the billing and charges to the customer. Consequently, it advised the business that it needed to enter into a trade waste agreement. The agreement would be between the business and the water provider and not impact the residential customer. The provider also determined that the property would therefore be classified as a single dwelling with a trade waste agreement and the residential customer would no longer receive wastewater usage charges. The water provider applied an account adjustment to the residential customer of $430.53 for the period 1 January 2018 to 30 September 2021. 

Case Study: Sewerage leak on property serviced by a pressurised sewerage system

A customer complained to EWON that her water provider had failed to resolve a problem with the pressurised wastewater system that services her home. She explained that an alarm for the system went off and she contacted her water provider for help. The provider advised that it would arrange for a technician to attend the property and inspect the system.  

Three days later, the customer noticed that sewerage was leaking out of the pipes near her kitchen window and contacted the provider again. The provider advised the customer that a plumber would attend that night and instructed the customer not to use large appliances such as the dishwasher or washing machine, however this visit did not occur. The provider promised a further two site visits which also never eventuated.  

EWON contacted the provider to clarify if further action could be taken to address the sewerage leak from the customer’s system. The provider advised EWON that it would review the complaint and provide a response. The customer contacted EWON again to advise that a pump truck had attended the property and that she had been told by the provider that a plumber would be attending later that day to complete the work. The provider also contacted EWON again to confirm that a tanker had been organised to attend the customer’s property immediately to clear the sewerage system so the customer could use their services. It also confirmed that it had arranged for a technician to follow up with the customer and assess whether the fault could be corrected or if the pump needed replacement.  

EWON contacted the customer and she confirmed that the provider’s technicians had been able to reset the system. 

Case Study: Customer needs assistance paying water bill

A customer’s advocate contacted EWON and advised that the customer relied on the JobSeeker payment for his income. The customer received a water bill from his water provider for $249, which he could not afford to pay. The customer had managed to pay some of his other utility bills but was struggling to pay them all. The advocate asked EWON if there was any further assistance the customer could access to help pay this bill. 

EWON recommended that the advocate contact his water provider directly and ask if the customer could be referred to their affordability team. EWON also advised the customer to ask the provider about a referral to be assessed for help through the Payment Assistance Scheme (PAS) and told the advocate she could return to us if no solution was found with the provider. 

The advocate returned to EWON to advise that the provider had offered a five-day extension to pay the customer’s bill. The advocate advised that the customer could not pay in this timeframe and no other assistance was offered.

EWON contacted the provider to discuss what options were available to help the customer pay his bill. The provider told EWON that its records showed that a payment extension was granted for six weeks and advised that the customer’s house was to be auctioned that week and any outstanding water charges would be part of the settlement. The water provider also noted that the customer could be referred to their affordability team and a request for assistance made through PAS, but that this may not go through if the property were sold. EWON provided the customer with this information and advised them to contact the water provider directly to obtain further assistance.