EWON Insights Apr-Jun 2023

Deputy Ombudsman message

Welcome to our latest issue of EWON Insights. Janine Young, EWON Ombudsman

Unsurprisingly, given the combined effect of the increased cost of living and energy price rises, complaints to EWON have increased by almost 25% compared with this time last year and price increase complaints have risen 66% compared with last quarter.

This data shows how critical it is for customers to know they have external dispute resolution options available when they can't resolve issues with their provider.  

Encouragingly, the introduction of the AER’s revised Better Bills Guideline from October will mandate that the contact details of ombudsman schemes are visible on the front page of energy bills.  We believe all market participants should actively promote both internal and external dispute resolution (IDR and EDR) to build trust and confidence in the sector, including EWON.  

For this reason, I recently presented to the Energy Charter and the Australian Energy Council Retail Group about a joint project EWON has led with our energy and water ombudsman peers to improve the promotion of IDR and EDR. This has been a joint focus for us since the release of the revised Australian Complaint Standard in March 2022. You can read the brochure we developed to assist our members here

This quarterly report 

In this EWON Insights we look at tariff assignment following a smart meter upgrade. As our case studies illustrate, the overriding issue driving these complaints is poor information being provided following an upgrade. 

We also take a close look at customer service. All complaints to EWON – almost by definition – feature a customer service component, otherwise the energy or water provider would have resolved the issue before the customer needed to contact EWON. However, complaints where customer service is the underlying reason the customer approaches EWON are less common. 

Finally, many providers of Customer Energy Resource (CER) products are existing EWON members, however many aren’t. We received 503 complaints about CER in the last quarter and this report looks at case studies where we could fully assist the customer because the complaint was about an EWON member. Comparatively, our case studies about non-EWON members illustrate how we could only provide general advice and refer the customer to NSW Fair Trading or another body for assistance. We’ll continue to monitor these complaints and push for an effective consumer protection framework including provision of free, fair and independent dispute resolution to be established. This is needed to ensure a clear pathway to dispute resolution, promote a level playing field for authorised energy retailers, and most importantly, increase rather than erode consumer trust in the energy sector. 

Helen Ford 
Deputy Ombudsman 
Energy & Water Ombudsman NSW