Ombudsman report reveals spike in bill complaints
NEW data from the Energy and Water Ombudsman Victoria (EWOV) shows high bills are the leading complaint among residents in our region, making up nearly 50 per cent of all cases.
The report indicates a significant uptick in complaints from last year, with expectations that the trend will continue as Victorians grapple with the latest Reserve Bank interest rate hike, gasoline prices, and the possibility of increased cooling costs with the approach of summer.
Across Geelong, the Surf Coast, and the Bellarine, there were 597 complaints filed.
Statewide, 8,797 cases (58 per cent) related to electricity, 5,092 cases (33 per cent) to gas, and 1,289 cases (8 per cent) to water.
Billing issues saw a 5 per cent increase from the previous year, with Origin Energy receiving the most complaints at 1,068, followed by AGL with 1,013 and Energy Australia with 927.
Ombudsman Catherine Wolthuizen stated credit and billing cases were consistently high.
“This is likely to continue for the foreseeable future. Consumers are trying to manage the complexities of the market and meet their increasing living expenses,” she said.
The Ombudsman noted the support options available.
“There are options available when seeking support, including approaching the provider for help. If consumers can’t resolve the issue, they can contact us at EWOV,” she said.
The EWOV investigations over the period led to customers receiving a total of $803,990 in the form of billing adjustments, service payments, and debt waivers.
In the 2022-23 period, concerns about the disconnection of utilities were rife.
“We are watching these issues closely as we know consumers and businesses are concerned about bills and payment difficulties and don’t want to be disconnected. Disconnection should always be a last resort,” Ms Wolthuizen said.
“Although case numbers have dropped, we’re seeing an increase in the types of complaints we’re receiving – such as high bills and customer service, because people don’t understand why their bills are so high.”
Wolthuizen foresees more challenges in the year ahead.
“As consumers accumulate more debt, there is a potential for an increase in disconnection cases in the upcoming months.”