Energy complaints and case studies

Diagram showing energy complaint breakdown

Table 4 – Energy complaint breakdown October to December 2022

Complaint type 

Number of complaints

% total energy complaints

General enquiry



Complaint enquiry



Refer to higher level









High bills for customers experiencing vulnerability

Customers complaining about high bills is the most common complaint that EWON receives. EWON received a 58.3% spike in high bill complaints in the July to September 2022 period, a trend which has slowed in the October to December 2022 period, which still saw a 16.0% increase.

Traditionally EWON receives a rise in complaints about bills that relate to increased usage during cooler periods because customers are often unaware of the energy consumption of their appliances. There have also been price increases in the past 12 months due to wholesale market volatility which has also impacted customers’ bills.

There are many causes of high bills, including poor insulation or a faulty appliance using more energy.

The first case study below demonstrates that even the anticipation of a high bill can have a negative impact on a customer with limited income. The second case study shows that vulnerable circumstances can make it difficult for a customer to navigate the energy market, including disputing a high bill.

 Customer worried about receiving delayed high bill

A customer moved into a rental property in January 2022 and established an electricity account. She provided her Centrelink details to receive the Low Income Household Rebate. In April 2022, she had not yet received a bill so she contacted the retailer who said it would follow up internally with its billing department. The customer did not hear anything further and continued to follow up every few weeks but by July 2022 she still had not received a bill.

She was worried that the bill would be high, because of the longer than normal period and the lack of opportunity to review her usage or make sure she was getting the Low Income Household Rebate. EWON referred the complaint to the retailer at a higher level, however the customer returned as she had still not received a bill.

EWON’s review found that there was a non-residential tariff assigned to the property incorrectly. Due to the mismatch, the account was not correctly set up and bills were not issued. The retailer liaised with the network to have the tariff corrected to residential and established a residential account commencing 1 June 2022 with the customer’s  informed consent.

 The retailer issued billing for the period 1 June 2022 to 4 October 2022 with the Low Income Household Rebate correctly applied. The customer was not required to pay for usage between January 2022 and June 2022. The retailer had already applied a total of $200 in customer service credits while dealing with the complaint directly, so the account was in credit by just over $50 after the billing was issued. The customer was happy with the outcome and aware she could contact the retailer to discuss a payment arrangement once she received her next bill. She was also advised she could access assistance such as EAPA vouchers in the future.

High bills – price increases due to volatility 

High energy bill complaints have increased to pre-COVID levels over the last two quarters. This jump has been partly driven by customers responding to sharp increases in the prices of electricity and gas throughout this year. The increased energy bills were largely driven by increased costs within the wholesale energy market, resulting from a range of international and domestic pressures.  

Although complaints to EWON illustrate how retailers have been impacted differently by the increased wholesale energy prices, some retailers, particularly those with smaller customer bases, have responded by passing multiple price rises on to their customers. Retailers were proactive in warning customers of future price rises, some even recommending that their customers transfer to a new retailer to obtain a better offer, but this has not prevented customers from complaining about receiving three or more price rises in a single billing period.

 Retailer recommends customer transfers after price increases

A customer was notified by email of three separate price increases that would be applied to her next electricity bill. She then received her monthly electricity bill for $225 which was higher than she expected so she contacted her retailer to request a review of the bill and to question the price increases.

The retailer confirmed the bill was correctly calculated and offered the customer a 33% discount on the bill. The customer did not accept this, so the retailer recommended that the customer transfer her electricity account to a new provider. The customer complained to EWON that the retailer had not adequately reviewed the bill, and that the price changes were not clearly notified.

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

 Customer experiences 80%-100% price increases

A customer complained to EWON that their energy retailer had increased prices three times in as many months. The price rises equated to an 80% increase to the price of peak electricity consumption, and a 100% increase to the price of off-peak electricity consumption. The customer advised EWON that his next quarterly energy bill had doubled despite including around $160 in discounts.  

 We advised the customer that we could not investigate a complaint about price setting by retailers. However, we also referred the matter to the retailer at a higher level, so they could respond to the customers complaint.

High bills relating to gas-specific issues 

Gas bills can increase due to leaking hot water systems or an undetected leak. In apartments it can sometimes be due to a misalignment with the meter data logger (where a meter transmits a read to a remote logger in the building via a communications cable) which shows the bill as actual, however is not accurately recording the consumption.

 Incorrect setup leads to high gas bill 

A customer received a bill for his hot water and unmetered gas for the period 7 February 2022 to 5 May 2022 which he considered to be high. He thought that both the meter reading and the calculation of the usage were incorrect as the reading was calculated in litres, not decalitres.  

He contacted his retailer on several occasions between May and July 2022 and it said the bill was correct, so he contacted EWON for further assistance. EWON initially referred the complaint to the retailer for resolution at a higher level, however the retailer did not resolve the issue so the customer returned to EWON.  

During EWON’s investigation the gas distributor attended the customer’s property and found that the remote reading facility used to bill the customer’s hot water usage was connected to another property. This was rectified during the visit and the retailer reversed all bills and rebilled the customer on the correct meter, including correcting the reading to include decalitres from the meter.  

 The customer’s account was now in credit by $95. The retailer also applied a $250 customer service gesture and letter of apology for the inconvenience caused.

 Customer requested to ‘wake up meter’ 

In July 2022, a customer received an estimated gas bill for over $900. He thought the bill was high as his previous gas bills never exceeded $130 per quarter. He contacted his retailer which said it would investigate and place a hold on his account. 

The customer then received a disconnection notice, so he contacted the retailer again which advised there was an issue with his meter which needed replacing. However, he was then told the problem was with the cable, not the meter. Both were replaced but he continued to receive estimated gas bills. The retailer advised the customer to contact the gas distributor and in August 2022 he received another notice stating he would be disconnected on 26 August 2022.  

The customer contacted EWON for further assistance as he was concerned about disconnection. EWON contacted the retailer which said the gas distributor had attended the property in August 2022 and found that the hot water meter had been undercharged but the gas meter had been overcharged. It also said one of the gas meters was not connecting with a meter data logger and requested that the customer press a red button on the meter to ‘wake it up.’ EWON requested that the customer do this and provide photos of the meter.  

After the customer had sent photos of his meter to EWON, we provided this to the retailer which confirmed that the meter was now receiving actual readings. The retailer issued an amended bill, for usage up to 21 September 2022 for $75, and as a gesture of good will the retailer offered to waive the charges.