COVID-19-induced energy debt poses a huge threat to many customers, especially as government initiatives to assist the newly unemployed and underemployed are inevitably wound back. This is concerning for all of us.

EWON, therefore, welcomed the extension of the Australian Energy Regulator's (AER) revised Statement of Expectations (SoE) to 31 March 2021, particularly with respect to encouraging customers who can pay, to do so, as this will help prevent high debt and stave off long term consequences for both consumers and retailers. 

Pleasingly, with respect to our reporting to the AER on energy provider adherence to the SoE, we have only identified a handful of complaints each fortnight where there has been possible misalignment with SoE requirements. This reflects very positively on retailers and their ongoing support for customers who are impacted by COVID-19.

High bill complaints to EWON this quarter have slowly begun to increase, perhaps due to COVID-19 and the fact we are coming out of the winter billing period. Our full year projection is still only 16,800 complaints received compared to 19,370 in FY 2020.   

This issue of EWON Insights focuses on customer complaints relating to COVID-19. The case studies in this report illustrate the high level of stress some customers are facing and their need for EWON’s assistance. As well as our water, embedded network and behind-the-meter sections, we also look at billing errors resulting from incorrectly installed or operated digital meters, customer complaints relating to owed refunds, and the often misleading marketing of rooftop solar.

Finally, we are looking forward to our first online Consultative Council Meeting in November where we'll have the opportunity to meet with members and community representatives to discuss consumer protection initiatives during COVID-19. 

Janine Young

Janine Young
Energy & Water Ombudsman NSW