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. 

Pie chart showing total water complaints received Jan-Mar 2021

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

Safety concerns 

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. 

Case studies 

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. 

Owner responsibilities 

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. 

Case studies 

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.