According to the Energy & Water Ombudsman NSW’s (EWON) 2016/2017 Annual Report released today, complaints from the Hunter region* increased by 10%, rising from 1,864 to 2053.
The Hunter region was one of seven NSW regions that experienced complaint increases. Complaints rose between 1% and 8% in the other six regions.
Complaints from the Hunter region rose significantly in the second half of 2016/2017 compared to the same period the previous year.
“EWON received 30% more complaints from the Hunter in the third quarter 2016/2017 than we did for that period in 2015/2016. In the fourth quarter, the increase jumped to 50% compared to the same quarter the previous year,” Energy & Water Ombudsman, Janine Young explained.
“While our complaints for all of NSW fell marginally overall, they steadily rose throughout 2016/2017 and continue to increase. We received 21% more complaints in the April to June quarter than we did in the same period last financial year, establishing a strong upward trend” Ms Young said.
The 1% decrease in complaints to EWON in 2016/2017 for NSW as a whole is much less pronounced than the 22% fall reported in 2015/2016 and the 19% decrease in 2014/2015.
The top three complaint issues customers raised with EWON in the Hunter region were about billing, customer service and credit, consistent with NSW as a whole.
Ms Young is concerned about energy affordability, particularly in light of 1 July 2017 price increases. “Affordability issues, payment difficulties, high bills, increasing debt and disconnection of supply have become the norm for NSW consumers experiencing financial vulnerability.”
“The array of energy offers makes it difficult for customers to find the best deal. Customers on low or fixed incomes in particular, continue to tell us they were not able to take advantage of discounted offers because of compulsory pay-on-time or direct debit conditions. It is promising to see that retailers are now starting to address this,” said Ms Young.
*EWON’s Hunter reporting region includes the Local Government Areas:Cessnock, Dungog, Lake Macquarie, Maitland, Mid-Coast, Muswellbrook, Newcastle, Port Stephens, Singleton and Upper Hunter Shire.