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

Janine Young 
Energy & Water Ombudsman NSW