EWON Insights Jan-Mar 2021
In our January-March 2021 quarterly report we explore energy case studies associated with deceased estates, backbilling, move-in disconnections and transfers in error. Our water case studies look at safety concerns and owner responsibilities. Finally, we explore some recent complaints related to embedded networks and behind the meter products.
Welcome to our second EWON Insights for 2021. Last month, our Consultative Council Meeting (CCM) focused on raising awareness of our successful Life Support rule change request which takes effect on 1 August 2021. Ninety-five stakeholders heard guest speaker Carolyn Campbell-McLean share her lived experience of reliance on various types of life support equipment, and how the rule change will assist other people with disabilities or medical conditions to switch energy retailers more easily. Carolyn’s honesty, humour and powerful personal story resulted in a number of actions including; Carolyn providing the NSW Department of Planning, Industry and Environment with contacts for advocacy groups to include in their review of medical and life support rebates, and our Communications team and the AEMC working together on a media announcement to coincide with the implementation date.
Australian Death Notification Service
Launched in 2020, the Australian Death Notification Service was established to enable bereaved customers to notify multiple organisations online that a death has occurred so that accounts can be closed or transferred easily. Complaints from family/friends about difficulties with finalising these accounts, and the impacts on the deceased customer’s family are significant, as outlined in the case study in this report. Many of EWON’s members have signed up to this voluntary service and I encourage our remaining members to join them.
Statement of Expectations - final iteration
The Australian Energy Regulator (AER) recently extended its Statement of Expectations to 30 June 2021. It further signalled that this was likely to be the last iteration of the Statement, after which consumer protections relating to disconnection and debt collection will return to normal. AER figures show that the number of customers in debt and the total debt owed have both increased significantly during the pandemic, while the number of customers on payment plans has decreased. It is vital that the time leading up to the Statement’s expiry is used well; we will continue to strongly encourage customers to contact their retailer to enquire about payment plans or affordability programs, especially in response to retailers who are proactively reaching out to offer assistance.
Spotlight On – hot water embedded networks
Our latest Spotlight On report highlights the consumer protection gaps facing more than 49,000 hot water customers living in embedded networks in NSW. The rise of emerging technologies and third-party embedded network operators has culminated in the supply, billing and maintenance of hot water becoming increasingly complex. To address these issues collaboratively, we have organised a round table discussion with policy makers and regulators this month and I look forward to reporting the outcomes in due course.
Feedback about our quarterly Insights Reports is always welcome. Please contact our Manager Policy & Research Rory Campbell.
Energy & Water Ombudsman NSW
Complaints received this quarter decreased by 7.1% to 3,803 (down from 4,092), due to decreased complaints from electricity and gas customers. The single biggest fall in complaint issues was a significant drop in disputed high bill complaints. The restrictions on various credit activities associated with the Australian Energy Regulator’s (AER) Statement of Expectations which is in place until 30 June 2021 underpins the decline in complaints.
Electricity: Total electricity complaints were 2,881 falling 9.5% compared to the previous quarter’s 3,184. The 2,626 electricity retail complaints we received represents an 8.7% decrease on last quarter’s 2,875 complaints. Network complaints fell by 23.2%, with 205 complaints compared to 267 in the previous quarter.
Gas: At 699, overall gas complaints were 3.6% lower compared to 725 complaints received in the previous quarter. The number of gas retail complaints received during the quarter (647) decreased by 4.9% compared with the previous quarter (680). The number of gas network complaints (43) increased by 13 from the last quarter.
Water: We received 186 water complaints this quarter, 29 more than last quarter.
The graph below shows complaints received in Jan-Mar 2021 compared with the previous quarter.
Table 1 provides detailed information about the number of complaints received from January to March 2021 compared to the previous four quarters.
Table 1 – Complaints opened January to March 2021, including the previous four quarters
Case subject Provider type Jan-Mar 2021 Oct-Dec 2020 Jul-Sep 2020 Apr-Jun 2020 Jan-Mar 2020 Electricity Exempt retailer 17 10 21 12 14 Electricity Network 205 267 251 259 368 Electricity Retailer 2,626 2,875 3,149 2,658 3,457 Electricity Not allocated 33 32 33 63 101 Electricity total 2,881 3,184 3,454 2,992 3,940 Gas Exempt retailer 0 0 0 0 0 Gas Network 43 30 50 21 31 Gas Retailer 647 680 673 520 658 Gas Not allocated 10 15 16 10 8 Gas total 699 725 739 551 697 Non-energy/ non-water Not allocated 36 26 24 15 22 Non-energy/ non-water total 36 26 24 15 22 Water Network 60 47 44 74 85 Water Retailer 101 80 92 99 129 Water Not allocated 25 30 20 18 24 Water total 186 157 156 191 238 Grand total 3,803 4,092 4,373 3,749 4,897
Customer complaint issues
Customers identified 7,423 different issues associated with the 3,803 complaints opened this quarter. This was a decrease of 6.5% on the previous quarter when 7,941 issues were identified. A decline in disputed high bill complaints accounts for most of this decrease. Between January and March 2021 disputed high bills were the identified issue in 1,204 complaints (16.2% of total issues), a 24.8% drop on the previous quarter (1,600 complaints, 20.1% of total issues).
Customers may be aware of their increased consumption due to working from home and may be more accepting of the resulting higher bills. Also, the Federal Government JobKeeper and JobSeeker supplements combined with the AER’s Statement of Expectations (SoE) means that customers with affordability issues that would normally present with disputes about high bills have receded. This is likely to change over the next six months as stimulus support and the SoE wind back.
While complaints about poor customer service decreased from 733 to 698, this issue increased slightly as a percentage of the total issues (9.4% from 9.2%). Credit issues remained low, consistent with the last 12 months. Debt collection issues made the top 10 this quarter despite the limitations on this activity by the SoE, with 140 complaints up from 103 in the previous quarter.
The other billing issues identified in the table below varied, with some increasing over the last quarter and others decreasing.
Table 2 – Top 10 issues January to March 2021, including previous four quarters
Primary issue Secondary > Tertiary issue Jan-Mar 2021 Oct-Dec 2020 Jul-Sep 2020 Apr-Jun 2020 Jan-Mar 2020 Billing High > Disputed 1,204 (16.2%) 1,600 (20.1%) 1,717 (21.8%) 1,285 (17.7%) 1,455 (16.9%) Customer service Poor service 698 (9.4%) 733 (9.2%) 634 (8%) 604 (8.3%) 726 (8.4%) Billing Opening / closing accounts 474 (6.4%) 425 (5.4%) 397 (5%) 395 (5.4%) 385 (4.5%) Customer service Failure to respond 347 (4.7%) 382 (4.8%) 344 (4.4%) 348 (4.8%) 309 (3.6%) Billing Estimation > Meter access / not read 340 (4.6%) 405 (5.1%) 428 (5.4%) 437 (6%) 434 (5%) Customer service Incorrect advice / information 242 (3.3%) 232 (2.9%) 217 (2.8%) 263 (3.6%) 305 (3.5%) Credit Payment difficulties > Current / arrears 190 (2.6%) 193 (2.4%) 207 (2.6%) 190 (2.6%) 387 (4.5%) Billing Error > Other 165 (2.2%) 106 (1.3%) 139 (1.8%) 96 (1.3%) 117 (1.4%) Billing Backbill 165 (2.2%) 183 (2.3%) 140 (1.8%) 122 (1.7%) 205 (2.4%) Customer service Failure to consult / inform 140 (1.9%) 117 (1.5%) 133 (1.7%) 130 (1.8%) 133 (1.5%) Credit Collection > Debt collector 140 (1.9%) 103 (1.3%) 101 (1.3%) 109 (1.5%) 120 (1.4%) Total issues 7,423 7,943 7,868 7,256 8,618
Core issue in a complaint
In October 2020, EWON began a new data collection process which identifies the core issue in a customer’s complaint, ie the issue that underpins each complaint. For example a customer may be complaining about a high bill and associated with that high bill, is also a complaint that the meter was not read despite access being available and failure of the retailer to respond to the complainant – three issues in total with the high bill being the driver of the customer’s complaint. In each complaint EWON receives there may be more than one issue but there can be only one core issue.
Core issues are allocated on finalisation / resolution of the complaint – this ensures that we identify the correct core issue based on information provided by both the customer and the provider.
There were three billing issues where the number of core issues increased this quarter despite the overall decline in complaint numbers:
- Opening or closing accounts – increased by 19.1% (243 up from 204)
- Complaints about billing errors – increased by 76.2% (104 up from 59)
- Billing associated with wrong meters – increased by 24.6% (86 up from 69).
Poor customer service is rarely the main reason a customer approaches EWON. Even though four different customer service issues presented in the overall top ten issues this quarter, there customer service was not in the top ten core issues. It should be recognised that dissatisfaction with provider customer service underpins the reason why most complaints are raised with EWON i.e. if the customer was satisfied with the service provided during their contact with their provider, there would be no reason to contact EWON.
Table 3 - Top 10 core issues
Primary issues Secondary issues Tertiary issues Jan-Mar 2021 % total Oct-Dec 2020 % total Billing High Disputed 897 23.51% 1,215 29.6% Billing Opening / closing accounts 243 6.37% 204 4.97% Billing Estimation Meter access / not read 141 3.7% 163 3.97% General Energy / water 133 3.49% 145 3.53% Billing Error Other 104 2.73% 59 1.44% Credit Collection Credit ratings 100 2.62% 114 2.78% Billing Refund or credit Delay / error / form 91 2.39% 100 2.44% Credit Payment difficulties Current / arrears 86 2.25% 74 1.8% Billing Error Wrong meter 86 2.25% 69 1.68% Billing Error Payment / deduction 81 2.12% 86 2.1% Total 3,815 4,105
The breakdown of all energy complaints by complaint category is shown in the pie chart and table below.
Table 4 – Energy complaints breakdown Jan-Mar 2021
Complaint type Number of complaints % total energy complaints General enquiry 11 0.3% Complaint enquiry 1,482 41.4% Refer to higher level 1,413 39.4% Investigated 677 18.9% Total 3,583 100%
Complaints associated with deceased estates
EWON first highlighted complaints about deceased estates in our EWON Insights report in the first quarter of 2018. We noted that finalising the affairs of a deceased family member is stressful. When closing energy and water accounts is managed effectively and with empathy, distress and anxiety decreases. We do not receive high numbers of complaints about this issue, but when we do, the impacts on the deceased customer’s family are significant.
Some EWON members have now joined the Australian Death Notification Service (ADNS) a collaboration of Births, Deaths and Marriages registries across Australia. Launched in 2020, it enables people to notify government and non-government agencies, organisations, and institutions that someone has died by way of a single contact. A wide range of organisations have joined the ADNS, covering services including banking, superannuation, phone and internet, energy and water, and government services.
We encourage all our members to engage with this service to improve the experience of those who are managing the death of a friend or family member.
The ADNS can be accessed at deathnotification.gov.au.
Multiple contacts, poor service and failure to act increased a daughter’s grief and stress
An advocate contacted her late mother’s retailer to close the electricity and gas accounts. A month later she called again to check if the accounts had been closed. The retailer told her it had not received or processed a request to close the accounts but would backdate the closure date and waive the additional fees. Ten days later she received an email confirming the gas account was closed, but she did not hear about the electricity account. After a further follow-up call, she complained to EWON that she’d had no update on the electricity account.
EWON referred the matter to the retailer for resolution at a higher level and told the advocate she could return to EWON if an agreed outcome could not be reached. She returned to EWON as the complaint remained unresolved. She had contacted the retailer five times, yet the account remained open which was increasing her distress and grief.
EWON contacted the retailer to confirm the status of the customer’s electricity and gas accounts. They said both accounts had finally been closed and final bills sent. The retailer also said the electricity account had been reversed and rebilled in error after the first final bill was issued. Advice from EWON that both of her mother’s energy accounts had finally closed was appreciated by the advocate.
Under the National Energy Retail Rules, retailers have the right to recover undercharges. These Rules also provide protection for customers. Where the cause of the undercharge is not the customer’s fault, retailers are only allowed to backbill for nine-months and must offer customers a payment arrangement spread over the same timeframe i.e. a bill for six months unbilled consumption can be paid off over a six month period. EWON regularly receives complaints about backbilling including instances where a retailer has billed beyond the nine-month limit.
Customer concerns resolved when undercharging provisions applied
After experiencing issues with his retailer about billing errors and online account service problems, a customer contacted EWON. The customer received a bill in December 2020 for $2,110 with outstanding charges of $1,259 and current charges of $850. There were no details about how the $1,259 had been calculated or what period it was for, and the retailer required immediate payment.
The customer had sent several emails to the retailer about the bill but had not received any response that explained the billing. The complaint was referred to the retailer for resolution at a higher level, but the customer recontacted EWON because the retailer had, in response to the RHL, promised an itemised bill which the customer did not receive. The customer wanted EWON to check the billing to ensure it complied with backbillingregulations and requested that he was offered a reasonable time to pay.
In response to EWON’s investigation, the retailer provided an itemised bill. It waived the arrears for the period of January to June 2020 as was required by the backbilling provisions of the rules, leaving only $829 owing. The customer was satisfied with this outcome.
Customer receives large backbill for three years’ consumption
A retailer issued a backbill of $16,270 covering a three year period, March 2017 to March 2020, that was disputed by the customer’s advocate.
The advocate told EWON that after an investigation, the retailer had accepted responsibility for an error where the wiring for the solar installation and smart meter had been set up incorrectly. The retailer said it had reconciled the billing and the amount owing for the past three years was $16,270. The advocate did not consider the amount owing to be reasonable when the retailer had accepted responsibility for the error and had not provided sufficient time to pay the backbill.
EWON referred this complaint back to the retailer at a higher level for resolution, however the advocate returned to EWON for an investigation as she was not satisfied with the response.
When EWON began its investigation, the retailer immediately applied a credit of $10,052 to the account covering the period from March 2017 to September 2019. This left a balance of $6,217. EWON’s investigation established:
- the consumption data from March 2017 to September 2019 was not estimated in accordance with the Rules because the estimated consumption was substantially higher than the customers actual consumption before March 2017 and after September 2019
- the retailer was not applying a feed-in tariff for all electricity that was recorded as being exported to the network, for the period of June 2019 to March 2020
- the back-billing provisions were not correctly applied and the customer was overcharged by $2,603.
The complaint was resolved when the account was re-billed after the retailer appropriately applied credits to comply with backbilling regulations. It applied an additional $800 credit and a pay on time discount of $297 which reduced the balance to $2,398. The retailer also established a payment plan of $399 per month for six months to pay the amount owing.
Over the last year, disconnections for unpaid bills have been restricted by the AER’s Statement of Expectations. However, retailers have appropriately been able to disconnect a site if energy was being consumed without an established account. In most instances when this occurs, EWON encourages the customer to open an account with the retailer which ‘owns’ the site. There are however some circumstances where EWON will open an investigation into the disconnection.
Customer disconnected for not opening a gas account
A customer’s gas supply was disconnected as he had not established an account. The customer told EWON he did not realise there was a gas hot water system. He contacted the retailer and was told there was an outstanding amount of $468. It said it could raise a same-day reconnection order for a fee of $200 but if he did not want to pay this fee then the reconnection would take up to five business days. The customer said he could not afford the fee.
EWON contacted the retailer who advised a reconnection order had not been raised as the customer had not agreed to open an account in his name. EWON recontacted the customer and explained his responsibility to open an account. The customer opened an account and EWON assisted in organising a same-day reconnection. The retailer waived the reconnection fee and reduced the arrears to $191 in recognition of the customer’s financial situation. EWON also referred the customer to a community organisation for Energy Accounts Payment Assistance and financial counselling.
Customer disconnected due to confusion over which retailer owned the site
The customer moved into his new unit in October 2020 and requested energy accounts through a connection service. Direct debits were being deducted from his accounts and he assumed this was for both electricity and gas, however, he returned home in March 2021 to find the electricity had been disconnected.
The customer contacted who he thought was his electricity retailer and was told it did not have an account in his name. He checked the mailbox and found a letter from a retailer advising it had disconnected the site as no account had been established. He signed up with that retailer but was told reconnection could take up to two days. He was also concerned that the retailer intended to bill him from July 2020.
EWON contacted the retailer and confirmed that it had issued the relevant warning notice prior to disconnection. EWON also confirmed that there had been a failed transfer attempt by another retailer in November 2020. The customer was reconnected the day after the disconnection and the retailer agreed to only bill from the October 2020 move in date. The customer was satisfieed with this outcome.
Transfer in error
The rules for resolving disputes about transfer errors are clear – the retailer who receives the initial complaint is responsible for resolving the customer’s dispute – even if that retailer was not responsible for the initial error. The following case study illustrates how some customers are still failing to resolve disputes about transfer in error, particularly when there is a breakdown in communication between the two energy retailers.
Retailer transfer in error
A customer received a letter from Retailer A advising she was at risk of disconnection. The customer told EWON she had opened an account with Retailer B but was told that her account had transferred to Retailer A eight months ago. She complained to EWON that she had never contacted retailer A and the electricity bill it had sent her was higher than the charges she usually received from Retailer B.
EWON contacted Retailer A to stop the disconnection and find out how the transfer had occurred. Retailer A told EWON it had signed up another customer using an incorrect address. When it realised the error, Retailer A had cancelled the new customer’s contract but had not cancelled the transfer request for the incorrect address. This resulted in the customer’s account being transferred in error. Retailer A requested a retrospective transfer back to Retailer B and cancelled all invoices raised on the account.
EWON was then contacted again by Retailer A advising that the retrospective transfer request had been cancelled because Retailer B declined the request. Retailer B objected to the transfer and disputed that they were the previous Financially Responsible Market Participant (FRMP) for the customer’s address. Retailer A offered to waive all the charges on the account and allow the customer to open a new account with Retailer B instead. The customer agreed to contact Retailer B directly and open a new account.
Water complaints and case studies
High bill complaints are the most common water complaint issue Other complaints about water providers relate to general water issues and customer service issues.
Complaint enquiries were the largest category of cases closed last quarter. Refer to higher level and investigated cases combined made up a smaller percentage (35.1%) of the total cases closed. These statistics carry a positive reflection on the effective internal dispute resolution of our water providers.
Table 5 — Water complaints closed breakdown
Complaint type Number of complaints Total % General enquiry 1 0.5% Complaint enquiry 117 64.3% Refer to higher level 47 25.8% Investigated 17 9.3% Total 182 100%
Table 6 – Water complaints - primary and secondary issues
Primary, secondary and tertiary issue Jan-Mar 2021 Oct-Dec 2020 Jul-Sep 2020 Apr-Jun 2020 Jan-Mar 2020 Billing > high > disputed 34 27 34 40 44 General > energy / water 26 37 32 30 32 Customer service > failure to respond 26 18 20 26 28 Customer service > poor service 21 17 13 25 33 Land > network assets > maintenance 13 11 12 17 14
Complaints about water may involve potential safety issues. This case study highlights that safety issues may require action to avoid further damage, which adds to the complexity of complaint resolution.
Ongoing water leak leads to safety concerns and damage to property
A customer reported a water leak in her front yard to her water provider. She said that the provider acknowledged the issue and confirmed it would send a plumber to repair the leak. The plumber did not arrive on the agreed date, and she contacted the water provider multiple times to follow up. The water provider then arranged another date; however the plumber still did not arrive. The customer contacted the water provider again and was told she was on the priority list.
The customer told EWON she was concerned about lack of action and ongoing delay resulting in damage to her garden. She also said that the ongoing leak was becoming a hazard and a safety concern.
EWON investigated the complaint. We found that the water provider had recently repaired the leak (which the customer confirmed). We also found that the water provider had noted required restoration work and sent it to the maintenance contractors for completion once the water subsided and the contractors were available. We explained that if the work was not completed within the advised timeframe, the customer could phone a specialist contact at the water provider directly – and if that did not resolved the matter, return to EWON for further action.
When owners rent their properties to tenants, they may not be clear about who is responsible for bills and water services. This case study highlights the impact of water bills not being paid resulting in outstanding debts, as well as the impact on arranging repairs for water service.
A landlord is unaware of a growing water debt
The owner had leased his premises to tenants for approximately two years. The tenancy agreement stated that the tenant was responsible for paying water usage charges. The owner said the water provider issued bills directly to the real estate agency and he had no visibility of the billing to the tenant. He said that he was never advised by the real estate agency or the water provider that the tenants were not paying for water usage.
It was only when the owner moved into the premises that he discovered there was a debt for past water usage for more than $3,000. He complained to EWON that he contacted the water provider, and it offered a $1,000 reduction but would not waive the previous debt. He also complained that the provider had replaced the meter and there were now water pressure problems that a plumber said the provider should fix. The water provider would not fix it because of the outstanding debt.
EWON initially referred the customer to the water provider for resolution at a higher level, however he returned to us because it did not contact him. He said a meter reader had recently read the meter and he then received a bill for approximately $206 which showed no outstanding amount, whereas normally a bill would show outstanding balances in red. We told the customer that the current outstanding debt was $1,669 and explained that bills are the owner’s responsibility and any agreement between the owner and tenant is a business agreement and the water provider is not responsible for collecting water charges from tenants.
The water provider told EWON that it did not have a record of offering to reduce charges other than the removal of late payment fees of $9 but offered to waive $259 for the cost of water used by the tenant. It also arranged for a contractor to examine the meter installation. The customer said he would consider the offer and let the water provider know his decision.
Embedded network complaints and case studies
This quarter EWON opened 128 complaints from embedded network customers. These customers were complaining about a range of energy service providers:
- Authorised energy retailers: 98
- Exempt electricity sellers: 17
- Authorised gas retailers: 11
- Electricity network exempt: 1
- Electricity (not allocated): 1
EWON closed 110 complaints from customers whose electricity or gas is supplied through an embedded network in the quarter.
Table 7 - Top issues for embedded network complaints closed this quarter
Complaint issues Cases Complaint > high > disputed 31 Customer service > poor service 21 Billing > opening / closing account 17 Billing > tariff > rate 12 Billing > backbill 8 Customer service > failure to respond 7 General > energy / water 7 Billing > tariff > information 7 Billing > delay 6 Billing > fees and charges > service availability 5
Limited financial support
Customers within embedded networks do not have access to the same financial support options that other customers have. The Energy Accounts Payment Assistance (EAPA) scheme is not available to customers within embedded networks. While some rebates are available, the application process for these customers can be unclear. This case study highlights the challenges that may arise when seeking rebates.
Customer in embedded network unable to access rebates
A customer lived in community housing within an embedded electricity network. She said that she was unable to access Energy Accounts Payment Assistance (EAPA) and had tried to get the Low Income Household Rebate applied to her electricity account. She said her retailer referred her to Service NSW but it referred her back to the retailer. She had spent several weeks trying to obtain the Rebate but was unsuccessful. Additionally, she said that because she lived in an embedded network, there were no discounts on bills offered and was concerned that this could potentially impact all residents in her building.
EWON told the customer that because it is an embedded network, she needed to apply for the Rebate directly with the NSW Government via Service NSW. We told her that we do not assess eligibility or administer rebates and that the retailer could not apply the Rebate on her behalf. We provided contact details for the Department of Planning, Industry and Environment rebates team for enquiries about the Rebate and her application. We also advised that rebates could not be applied to bundled services, such as unmetered gas, hot water bills and recycled water.
Customers experiencing financial difficulties
Financial difficulties may lead to customers being unable to pay their bills, make required payments for payment plans, and/or be at risk of disconnection. This case study highlights the complexity of financial difficulties for a COVID-19 impacted customer, leading to disconnection.
Customer unable to afford payment plan
A customer’s electricity was disconnected for non-payment. She said she had not received any notices before the disconnection occurred and that she was experiencing financial issues due to being impacted by COVID-19. The customer said she spoke to the authorised retailer that serviced the embedded network she lived in about how much she could afford for a payment plan, but the retailer said it was not enough to cover the balance and her ongoing charges. She told us she could not afford to pay a higher amount and her retailer was not willing to negotiate.
EWON investigated the complaint. We told the customer that the retailer had arranged the reconnection of supply. We also advised her that the retailer would like her to make contact to arrange a payment plan for the balance owing on her current electricity account. The account was put on hold for a short period to provide time for her to arrange a payment plan with the retailer.
EWON has received other complaints about customers experiencing financial difficulties. In these cases, retailers and customers often agree to payment plans as part of the complaint resolution.
Behind the meter case studies
The increased uptake of behind the meter products means they are now part of everyday complaints about energy services. We are also seeing the integration of new technologies and energy business models, with embedded network customers wanting to access the benefits of rooftop solar systems. This means that many of the market rules and consumer protections that energy consumers rely on no longer work. The following case study highlights how energy retailers are adapting to consumer demand to provide off-market customers with the same access to behind-the-meter products as on-market customers. We also provide a case study that illustrates how new technologies are fast replacing a customer’s reliance on traditional energy bills.
Solar credits delayed for embedded network customer
A customer living in an embedded network was being on-sold electricity by an authorised energy retailer. The customer had submitted a ‘change supply request’ form to his retailer after installing a rooftop solar system but contacted EWON because he had not received a response for over two months. The customer wanted to start receiving credits on his bill for the energy generated by his solar system and exported to the embedded network. He also wanted his solar credits to be backdated to the day he lodged his request with the retailer.
EWON contacted the retailer for information about the status of the customer’s request. The retailer said to enable an embedded network customer to receive credits for the solar energy exported to the grid, only the electricity meter at the parent connection point needed to be reconfigured. The retailer noted that off-market embedded network customers do not receive itemised solar credits in the same ways as on-market customers with a standard connection. Instead, embedded network customers will see the credits as a ‘miscellaneous adjustment’.
In this case, the meter at the parent connection point for the embedded network was configured for solar energy export on the same day that the customer submitted the request. However, the solar credits were not being applied to the customer’s bills.
The retailer investigated and identified that the connection application submitted by the solar installer was incomplete as it did not provide information on the accumulative generation capacity of the embedded network (or the total number of rooftop solar systems exporting from the embedded network). The retailer contacted the solar installer and advised it to submit the application again. After the re-application was completed, the retailer offered to waive the metering fee of $49.50 and to provide the customer with a credit of $150 in recognition of the delay. The customer accepted this outcome as resolution of the complaint.
Inconsistencies between inverter and retailer data
A customer upgraded the rooftop solar installation on his home and purchased a new inverter to monitor his electricity generation and usage. He also downloaded his energy retailer’s mobile app to access data from his digital meter. The customer monitored his electricity usage, generation, and export data daily and noted that the data obtained through the retailer’s app was delayed by a few days. The customer also complained that there was a difference between the data provided by the retailer and the data he obtained directly from the system. The customer had complained to the retailer about these issues and was told that a supervisor would call him back to discuss his complaint.
EWON told the customer that he should allow the retailer time to respond to his complaint. The customer agreed to discuss his complaint with the retailer before escalating the complaint with us.
The customer returned to EWON because he was not satisfied with the explanation provided by his retailer. He said some days there was almost 20kWh difference between the inverter data and the data provided through the retailer’s app and he did not consider the data on the retailer’s app to be reflective of his actual energy generation and usage. EWON referred the matter to the retailer for resolution at a higher level and advised the customer that he could return to EWON if an agreed outcome could not be reached.