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Friday, 15 March 2013
More bad electricity news
The Energy & Water Ombudsman NSW (EWON) saw a 43% increase in complaints in 2011-2012, closing 25,162 cases (up from 17,559 the previous year).
Released today, EWON’s Annual Report 2011-2012 shows that consumers, particularly energy consumers, are experiencing problems across all categories in larger numbers than ever before. Billing issues, in particular disputed high bills, affordability-related credit issues and customer service problems dominated, with significant rises also noted in marketing and account transfer complaints.
The underlying issue of energy affordability is of great concern to EWON. “The circumstances of many customers who contacted us showed they were under real pressure,” said Clare Petre, Energy & Water Ombudsman NSW. “We found many cases where we could help a customer resolve a present, acute situation with their energy supplier – such as disconnection – but where there was clearly an underlying affordability problem that suggested the customer would have problems managing their bills in the future.”
Rising levels of hardship were reflected in disconnection complaints for the period: EWON received 29% more complaints from customers facing disconnection and a worrying 34% more complaints from customers who had already been disconnected. “We were also very concerned to see growing numbers of customers affected by debt collection activity and credit default listing – often for small amounts well under $300,” added Ms Petre.
As energy prices continue to increase, so too will the scale of affordability issues for consumers. EWON was aware that consumers across other states were likewise affected and called for a national discussion bringing together all key stakeholders to work towards national solutions. “We received strong support for a national discussion and we are continuing to pursue this proposal,” said Ms Petre.
Increased marketing activity by energy retailers combined with growing price sensitivity, which motivated consumers to shop around, also had an impact on complaints to EWON. There was a 71% increase in marketing complaints in the year (2070 cases) and an 86% rise in complaints relating to account transfers (4903 cases). EWON is continuing to receive customer reports about pressured and misleading energy marketing, as well as marketing to vulnerable consumers where informed consent is an issue.
These complaint growth trends are forecast to continue through 2012-2013. Looking ahead, Ms Petre said, “it is incumbent upon energy and water providers to invest in systems and resources to ensure they have the capability to respond to any increases in contacts from their customers.”
A Green Energy WA Manger agrees, it is likely bad news for the whole country. "Rises like these are never restricted to one state alone and we expected the rise to effect every state. Again the value of solar power is pushed to the forefront. The escalating bills are really effecting the older generation, its them we need to protect"