EWON Insights Jul-Sep 2023

EWON complaints analysis report

Ombudsman message

Welcome to our latest issue of EWON Insights.

Janine Young, EWON Ombudsman

We received 7,029 complaints this quarter, nearly 60% higher than the last quarter. Unsurprisingly, affordability is the number one reason customers are seeking our help; energy price, mortgage and rent increases are adding to overall cost of living pressures. The longstanding issue of customers not being able to manage accumulated energy debt is now being exacerbated by a growing cohort of customers struggling to afford their most recent bill. We’ve expanded our dispute resolution team so that we can provide timely advice, referral and complaint resolution.

Against this backdrop, the Federal Government’s Energy Bill Relief has offered some welcome relief. We have received complaints from customers querying when or if they would get the rebate applied to their bills, and to ask about other assistance they may be able to access. The bill relief was introduced in May, and I’d like to commend energy retailers for implementing the required changes to their systems in such a short time frame.

With our focus on the early identification of affordability issues, as well as underlying customer service issues, we’re revising our approach to our existing complaints categories and will backdate these changes to 1 July 2023. This will allow us to increase the information we provide to our energy members while also enhancing our reporting.

In the policy space, the scope of our work is widening. We have recently completed – jointly with our energy ombudsman peers from other states – submissions to the Senate’s review into electrification, to the Australian Energy Infrastructure Commissioners review into community engagement, and to the Australian Energy Market Commission's rule change on community engagement in transmission projects. We’ve also made two submissions supporting the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal's work in regulating Sydney Water and WaterNSW. You can read our submissions on EWON’s website.  

This quarterly report

In this EWON Insights, our focus is on our outreach program and the type of complaints we receive at community events. The case studies illustrate how we often become aware of issues as they emerge in communities well before they are identified through our complaints management.

We also look at the increased use of mobile apps which offer customers improved access to energy data and billing information but can be incorrect or unreliable. Retailer apps aren’t regulated through the National Energy Customer Framework, but the reliability of these services will become critical as more customers obtain smart meters and engage with their energy provider digitally.

Affordability challenges are not as evident in the water complaints we receive, due to regulated prices in that industry protecting customers from the sharp price rises seen in the energy markets. However, we all know that cost of living and energy transition is impacting consumers in every sector - please also take the time to consider this report’s water, embedded networks and consumer energy resources sections. 

Janine Young
Ombudsman & Chief Executive Officer
Energy & Water Ombudsman NSW