Water complaints and case studies

Water complaints make up approximately 3% of the complaints that EWON receive, and these complaints have a wide range of issues.

Table 5 —Water issues July to September 2021 including the previous four quarters

Primary and secondary issue Jul- Sep 2021 Apr-Jun 2021 Jan-Mar 2021 Oct-Dec 2020 Jul-Sep 2020
Billing > high > disputed 44 41 34 27 34
General > energy / water 29 27 26 37 32
Credit > payment difficulties > current / arrears 21 11 10 5 9
Customer service > poor service 19 25 21 17 13
Billing > other 18 4 6 2 6

Table 6 — Water complaint breakdown July to September 2021

Complaint type Number of complaints Total %
General enquiry 16 8.2%
Complaint enquiry 111 56.9%
Refer to higher level 47 24.1%
Investigated 21 10.8%
Total 195 100%

General water case studies 

We receive water complaints that relate to claims or disputing high bills.  These are sometimes due to increased usage, a leak that might not have been visible, or a possible fault with a meter.  

The case studies below highlight some of the complaints we receive, and how different approaches may be taken to try and resolve these complaints between the parties.  

A faulty water meter resulting in a high water bill  

An advocate contacted EWON for assistance as he had been unable to resolve his issue directly with the water provider. In early 2020 he told the provider that the water meter at the property was faulty, as one of the meter dials was not in sync with the other dials.  

The meter was removed and tested by an independent testing agency. The meter was found to be working correctly. The customer was told the bill was correct and had an account balance of $33,513. After the new meter was installed, measured water consumption dropped from 13,362 kilolitres in a quarter, to 451 kilolitres. 

During EWON’s investigation, the provider advised us that an error had been found with the first dial of the meter at the time it was removed. The dial was independent of the other dials and therefore had not shown a fault when the meter was tested.  

The error with the dial resulted in the customer being over billed for 10,000 kilolitres of water, an overcharge of $23,500. The provider also credited $255 to reimburse the cost of the meter test. After the credits were applied to the account, the outstanding balance was reduced to $6,359, and the advocate was referred to the provider directly to establish a payment arrangement. The advocate was satisfied with the outcome and that a fault in the meter had been identified.  

Damage to customer’s property by retailer 

In 2020 a customer used a provider’s program to install two new toilets at the property. As part of the installation the contractor damaged the gate at the customer’s property by reversing his vehicle into it. The customer contacted the provider regarding the damage and was not able to resolve the issue despite trying to contact the retailer for over nine months. 

During EWON’s investigation, we were told by the provider that due to COVID-19 restrictions in NSW, there had been delays in finding a suitably qualified repairer.  

To resolve the complaint and avoid further delays, the provider agreed that the customer could obtain a quote from a repairer for its approval.  The customer was happy with this approach and would contact the provider directly with the quote.  

Customer on an agreed payment plan experienced water restriction and interest on accrued debt 

A customer had previously owned a property however was now a tenant of it, due to a change in ownership following the breakdown of a relationship. 

He had been disputing his water bills for five years with his provider due to high bills, charges relating to a water restriction and interest on the account balance. There was a debt of $2,500 on the account and this was transferred to the new property owner. He was responsible for payment of the account as part of an agreement with the new owner of the property and was faced with losing his home if payment was not made.  

He had not used water from the tap for nine months due to the account balance and was making payments of $50 per fortnight towards the account. He wanted the interest and charges associated with the water restriction to be waived, as the water restriction was completed in error.  

The provider told EWON that the full debt had been transferred to the new account holder, as there had not been any settlement of debt at the time of transfer of title. The provider also confirmed that a payment arrangement had been made with the new account holder. 

The provider advised that the interest and fees applied to the account were correct, however, to resolve the matter it offered to apply a credit of $800 to the water account and to continue with the existing payment arrangement with the new owner.  

The customer was happy with the resolution offered and advised that he would continue to be responsible for the payment arrangement of $50 per fortnight.  

High water bill with minimal water infrastructure  

A customer received a high water bill for $2,330. His previous bills had never been more than $180. The property was a vacant block of land with minimal water usage. A plumber confirmed that there was no leak at the property and the water supply only went to a garden tap that was two meters from the meter. The meter at the property was also replaced and he thought the previous meter was faulty. 

We referred the matter to the provider, for resolution at a higher level with the customer’s acceptance knowing he could return to us if he was unhappy with the outcome.