Energy complaints and case studies

Complaints received through outreach

EWON’s community engagement and outreach program is designed to promote our services and educate consumers, small business and community workers about energy and water issues.

EWON participates in a wide range of annual events, such as the Sydney Royal Easter Show, Yabun Festival, Mardi Gras Fair Day, Homeless Connect days and the Koori Knockout. We present to consumer and industry groups, hold webinars and have stalls at local events.

We also organise EWON-led events, such as the Community Assist Days we held in Forbes and Redfern in July 2023. We invite government and community services as well as our energy and water provider members to have an information stall and speak to customers face to face. While these events typically target potentially vulnerable customers, they are open to anyone who needs assistance. Cost of living pressures have intensified over the past several years, leading more and more people to experience affordability difficulties for the first time – and they are often not aware of the support and resources available to them.

Outreach events are beneficial for EWON, customers and retailers in a multitude of ways. They spread awareness of our services and what we can assist with. We get the opportunity to help people understand their bills, learn about their rights and responsibilities and find out about available consumer protections. This better equips customers to resolve issues with their retailers, manage their energy and water usage, make informed choices and access entitlements such as rebates.

Outreach events also provide an opportunity for customers to talk to someone from EWON face to face and build rapport, which is particularly helpful for people who might find it hard to make initial contact by phone or online. This could be for a range of reasons – they may have limited internet access, fixed mobile phone minutes or be uncomfortable advocating for themselves.

Members join us on outreach events, giving energy and water providers the opportunity to meet directly with their customers, gain a better understanding of their challenges and needs, and build relationships that foster future contact.

Customers can also receive holistic assistance for affordability difficulties as we can refer them to other services at the event for specific help – financial counselling, payment assistance, housing and legal support and much more.

Community engagement also provides a vital opportunity for EWON to learn about matters affecting consumers. Engaging firsthand means we often become aware of issues as they emerge in the community and before they are identified through our complaint handling work. When this happens, our Community Engagement team notifies our Policy & Systemic Issues or Dispute Resolution team to ensure these matters are considered in our complaints, policy work and stakeholder-engagement activities.

For information about EWON outreach events, see the events page on our website.

Case studies

Case study Direct retailer assistance

A customer attending an outreach event told EWON she had been receiving high bills of over $1,600 per quarter for the previous several years. She had been impacted by flooding but was already concerned about high bills prior to that. She had spoken to her retailer over the phone but hadn’t received any update or response.

"" We introduced the customer to a representative from her retailer, who was attending the outreach event. The retailer applied a credit of $500 to the customer’s account on the spot and discussed options such as checking whether she was on the best energy plan. The retailer also offered to pay for an electrician to check the customer’s electrical installation to help investigate possible high bill causes, including checking for potential issues caused by the floods. The customer agreed to continue progressing the complaint directly with the retailer in the first instance. EWON advised her that she could contact EWON for further assistance if required.

Case study Help with concession entitlements

A customer complained to EWON staff at an outreach event that she had recently closed her electricity and gas accounts when she moved out of her previous address and the final balances were $880 for electricity and $400 for gas. She thought her rebates may not have been applied to her bills but was sure she provided her concession details to the retailer. She was having difficulty paying the balances but thought she could afford to pay $50 per fortnight toward the electricity and $25 per fortnight toward the gas. She had been unable to resolve her complaint with the retailer.

The customer brought copies of her bills to the event. Our on the spot review confirmed the accounts were closed based on actual meter reads and the account closure dates were in line with her move out date. We also confirmed there were no rebates applied. The customer showed us her concession card which indicated that she should be eligible for rebates.

"" The same EWON staff member progressed the customer’s complaint after the event and kept the customer up to date by phone and letter. We spoke to the retailer which calculated the total missed NSW Gas Rebate on the gas account was $105 and the total missed Low Income Household Rebate on the electricity account was $275. We checked the calculations and confirmed the figures. The retailer agreed to these credits as a customer service gesture. It increased the gas credit to $400, and a further $500 credit for electricity reduced the balance to $380. The customer could afford to pay $75 a fortnight for the electricity since now she was no longer paying anything for gas. The retailer agreed to this arrangement which would pay the remaining electricity balance over a three-month period.

EWON also provided the customer with information about available assistance, including support she may wish to access once she moved from her temporary accommodation to a more permanent situation and had energy accounts in her name again.

Case study Faulty meter causes high bill

A customer made a complaint about her electricity account at an outreach event. Her household had reduced from three people to one, but her electricity bills were higher even though there were fewer people living in the property. She was paying $100 to $200 per fortnight but felt she was not able to keep on top of the bills. An EWON staff member introduced her to a Service NSW representative at the event to discuss the possibility of applying Energy Account Payment Assistance (EAPA) toward her current bill of $280.

The same EWON staff member progressed the customer’s complaint after the event, keeping the customer up to date by phone and letter. The retailer arranged a meter test due to the customer’s high bill concerns and the meter was found to be faulty. The retailer arranged a meter replacement and reviewed what adjustments should be made to her billing.

The customer intended to keep making regular payments while waiting for the meter replacement. EWON’s review of billing and account information from the retailer found that the customer’s regular payments had put the account into credit. This meant she was not currently eligible for EAPA. EWON advised the customer of her options if she needed to reduce her regular payments and/or if debt started to accrue, including her right to receive information about her retailer’s affordability program and the option to contact Service NSW for a new EAPA assessment.

"" The customer agreed to deal with the retailer directly to progress the meter replacement. EWON advised the customer to return to EWON if there were any issues with the meter replacement and billing adjustments. We also provided information on helpful services such as free financial counselling.

Case study Help with a higher than expected bill

A customer at an outreach event told EWON staff that a new occupant had moved into the apartment next door and opened an electricity account for her supply address by mistake. She didn’t find out about the problem until her retailer contacted her to explain what had happened and that her account had been reinstated after the new occupant realised their mistake. She then received an electricity bill for about $800 with higher rates than she was being billed on before the mistake occurred. She was concerned she had been left at a financial disadvantage due to circumstances outside of her control and was not able to afford the bill.

The same EWON staff at the event progressed the customer’s complaint after the event and kept the customer up to date by phone and email. EWON’s review of billing and account information from the retailer confirmed there had been a transfer in error in December 2022 which was corrected in May 2023. We found the retailer had put the customer back on her original plan when it reinstated her account and issued bills for the period December 2022 to May 2023, but there had been a price increase effective from 1 March 2023. EWON’s review further found that the bills were based on actual meter reads, had the appropriate rebates applied and complied with backbilling limits.

"" The retailer offered a customer service credit of $800 for the disputed bill to resolve the customer’s complaint and allow her to start fresh with her account. As the customer had made some payments toward the disputed bill, the electricity account was then in credit by $120. EWON provided the customer with information that would help her if she experienced affordability issues with future bills, such as her right to receive information about the retailer’s affordability program and the option to apply for EAPA.