Better Bills Guidelines complaints

Some customers are confused by the new content of their retailer’s bills

From 30 September 2023, all energy retailers are required to bill energy in accordance with the Australian Energy Regulator’s (AER) Better Bills Guidelines. To make it easy for small customers to understand billing information, the guidelines outline design principles and list required information to be included on bills, in order of importance.

Overall, retailer implementation of the Better Bills Guidelines appears to have been successful, however like with any change, we anticipated seeing some teething issues as retailers amended their billing systems, interpreted the guidelines and made choices about bill layouts. Some customers have reported to EWON their concerns about layout or missing information on bills when compared to their old bills. Others have experienced more complicated issues.

One key change is the requirement for EWON’s phone number to be displayed on the first page of the bill. We have received a small number of complaints from customers that contacted EWON as it was the first number they saw, or they commented that our number was more visible that the retailers contact number. We have provided feedback to these retailers so that they can consider the format of their bills and we refer these customers to the relevant provider.

We are continually monitoring the drivers for customers contacting EWON and will continue to provide feedback to retailers if we find their bill format approach may result in customers choosing to contact EWON first rather than after initial retailer contact.

Case studies

Case study New bill did not display account balance in credit

A customer pays $80 per month towards her electricity bills which covers her usage and leaves her account in credit. She received a bill in a new format that said she was in credit by $220 but also that she owed $95.

The customer contacted her retailer and was informed it was the correct way to be billed. She contacted EWON as she was confused by the new layout of her bill and did not think that she owed any amount to the retailer.

We requested information from the retailer which advised that it had made changes to its bill templates in line with the Better Bills Guideline. The retailer said it now sends a cover letter to customers with the account balance and all payments, concessions and amounts owing, whereas the bill provides a breakdown of the customers charges for the period. The retailer said it had explained this to the customer, however, it was not accepted.

While reviewing the complaint the retailer’s staff member had provided feedback internally that the wording on the bill, advising the total amount due, might be misleading to customers in credit. The retailer reissued a bill to the customer after updating its process, reworded to say ‘your total new charges’.

EWON explained the new guideline requirements to the customer and the retailer agreed to apply a $50 credit to the customer’s account as a customer service gesture.

The customer again expressed concerns that the bill did not show when her payments were made and that she still found the new bills more confusing than the previous ones. She said she would raise her concerns with her local Member of Parliament.

Case study Bill displays a better offer that was not available to the customer

A customer received his most recent gas bill from his retailer. The gas bill had a box that said ‘Could you save money on another plan?’ and informed him that he could save $51 per year by changing his gas plan.

He contacted his retailer to change the plan, however it said this was a mistake and should not have been on his bill, as the plan was not available to him. The customer thought this was unreasonable and wanted the retailer to honour the advertising and provide a $51 discount off his next bill.

EWON referred the complaint the retailer’s specialist team to try to resolve directly.  EWON invited him to return to EWON for further discussion, if required.