It’s uplifting to see NSW and Victoria finally emerging from extended lockdowns and families planning to reunite for Christmas - we’ve all been waiting too long. 

The theme of our 2020/2021 Annual Report, Listen, Engage, Act, is a sentiment derived from the fact that this year, perhaps more than ever, consumers and stakeholders needed to be heard. So, we listened, engaged and took action.  

This Annual Report includes an interactive complaints dashboard which allows customers and stakeholders to take a deep dive into our complaints data and local trends. 

Last month, I was delighted to host Resilience NSW Commissioner, Shane Fitzsimmons at our online Re-engage and Renew Forums (Orange and Western Sydney) as part of Anti-Poverty Week. Shane presented to over 150 community workers about his work during the catastrophic 2019/2020 summer bushfires and gave his insights into how communities can rebuild and renew after disasters. We received positive feedback from participants about the quality of the speakers and the new knowledge they were able to take back to their workplaces. 

With the conclusion of the Australian Energy Regulator’s (AER) Statement of Expectations, many households will come out of lockdown with accrued debt. The average NSW household debt was $853 in March 2020. Now, the AER is reporting it has increased to $1,043 and for some households it will be much more. Equally concerning is the number of customers on energy or gas payment plans which has decreased from 65,876 to 55,456, and the number of customers on affordability programs which has also decreased from 41,114 to 36,755. These figures could mark the tipping point into sustained debt for many customers. 

Now is the time to take a new approach to customer support. The COVID-19 initiatives introduced in March 2020, combined with increased collaboration between energy networks and retailers, provide the impetus to develop a blueprint to address long-term energy affordability. Read more about possible solutions to this issue in our December 2020 Spotlight On report.

In this EWON Insights we look at digital meter complaints, in particular tariff changes, installation delays and B2B cooperation. We also highlight a case study where a retailer provided multiple options and flexibility for a business customer experiencing payment difficulty

Stay well everyone,

Janine Young
Energy & Water Ombudsman NSW

Photo of Janine Young, Energy and Water Ombudsman NSW