Behind-the-meter complaints and case studies

Service provider

Complaints opened involving
behind-the-meter products

Electricity > network > authorised       16
Electricity > not allocated 16
Electricity > retail > authorised 385
Electricity > retail > exempt               -
Total 417

Table 9 - Top core issues for closed complaints involving behind the meter technologies, October to December 2021

EWON core complaint issue (closed cases)       Total
Billing > high > disputed 104
Billing > tariff > feed-in 48
Digital meter exchange > delay 37
General > energy / water* 21
Billing > estimation > meter access / not read 11
Digital meter exchange > billing > estimated bill 9
Digital meter exchange > fault > solar connection 8
Billing > contract terms > variation in price / terms 8
Billing > error > other 8
Billing > tariff > rate 8

* Complaints are often about solar installation companies, which are outside EWON’s jurisdiction.

Access to dispute resolution

As the uptake of behind-the-meter technologies increases in NSW, the appropriate avenues for external dispute resolution are less clear. Complaints about behind-the-meter technologies might be about faulty products, the conduct of salespeople, the promises made about bundled services, or even the finance provided by the retailer. This may leave a customer needing to pursue multiple complaints through multiple external dispute resolution bodies, such as NSW Fair Trading, EWON or even the Australian Financial Complaints Authority (AFCA).

Case Study: Complex high bill dispute after customer purchases rooftop solar system

The customer purchased a solar system from their retailer five years earlier and advised EWON that for the previous four years, the amount of energy generated by the panels did not meet the promises made by the retailer. The customer had spoken to the energy retailer about high electricity bills multiple times over the four-year period. The retailer had arranged for an inspection of the solar panels on two previous occasions. At the first inspection, the technician suggested there was a fault with the solar panels. At the second inspection, a different technician identified that the solar inverter was not communicating correctly with the rest of the system. The energy retailer then referred the customer to the inverter manufacturer. 

The customer complained to EWON that she had difficulty obtaining a report on her rooftop system from the retailer, and the email address the retailer gave her for the manufacturer was no longer valid. The customer was unable to obtain an independent inspection because the system was still under warranty from the retailer.

The retailer advised EWON that the inspections of the customer’s system did not reveal any fault. The retailer also noted that the customer’s meter was recording a significant amount of solar energy exported to the grid, but the customer’s household consumption had also increased substantially since 2018. The customer had enquired about a meter test but chose not to go ahead because of the $534.16 fee. After EWON’s contact, the retailer offered to test the customer’s meter at no cost. EWON also obtained the retailer’s records for the billing of the account and the meter data for the customer’s consumption and the solar energy exported to the network. 

EWON’s review of the customer’s billing and meter data for their electricity consumption and exported solar energy indicated the retailer had billed the account accurately. The meter test requested by the retailer confirmed that the meters were recording the electricity consumption and export accurately. EWON also reviewed the customer’s contract and confirmed that the correct rates and solar feed-in tariff had been applied to the account. EWON advised the customer that it could not investigate the functionality of the rooftop solar system or the application of the warranty for the system. The customer was referred to NSW Fair Trading for the complaint about the solar system.

Case Study: Dispute over rooftop solar system purchased from energy retailer

A customer advised EWON that she purchased a 6.6kW rooftop solar system from her retailer. The system was installed, and initially appeared to work. A few months after installation the inverter began to frequently trip and turn off for periods of 30 to 60 minutes at a time. This periodic failure was confirmed in an app that had been provided to monitor the amount of energy generated by the system. The customer complained to their retailer, who then contacted the distributor. The distributor sent a technician to the home and issued a defect notice for the installation because the inverter was larger than had been approved in the application to connect to the system. The customer advised that the retailer installed a limiter on the inverter, which meant that the system output was now only 3kW. The customer complained to EWON that they ended up with a smaller system than promised, and yet were still paying the same amount to their retailer.

The customer advised that they had not yet made a complaint to the retailer about the final cost of the system. EWON advised the customer to make a complaint to the retailer in the first instance. EWON also advised the customer to check the terms and conditions of their agreement to purchase the rooftop solar system. EWON advised the customer that they could return for further advice if the complaint remained unresolved.

Case Study: Solar feed-in tariff misrepresented by retailer

A customer advised EWON that he purchased a 20kW rooftop solar system for his business on the basis that he would also receive a solar feed-in tariff of $0.22 per kWh. After signing the contract, the customer found out the payment of the solar feed-in tariff of $0.22 per kWh was limited only to the first 14kWh exported for each period. After this, the feed-in tariff dropped to $0.05 per kWh. The customer complained to the retailer about the lack of transparency about the feed-in tariff limits before he agreed to purchase the solar system. The retailer offered to provide the customer with a credit of $1,200 due to the lack of information provided about how the feed-in tariff worked. The customer complained to EWON that he had only wanted a 10kW system but spent an extra $5,000 on the solar system based on the feed-in tariff that was initially offered. The customer noted that he would continue to be affected by this misrepresentation.

EWON assessed that the sale of the solar system was not within EWON’s jurisdiction. However, EWON referred the matter back to the retailer at a higher level to see if it could be resolved for the customer. EWON also referred the customer to NSW Fair Trading based on his complaint that the sale of the rooftop solar system was misleading.