Concerns about energy bills was the leading reason Logan City residents contacted the Energy and Water Ombudsman Queensland (EWOQ) last financial year, with billing disputes accounting for half of complaints from the region in 2019-2020.
Following the release of EWOQ’s 2019-2020 Annual Report yesterday, Energy and Water Ombudsman Jane Pires said these consumers were among 7621 Queensland residents and small businesses from across the state who had sought help from her office during 2019-2020.
“With 492 cases, Logan City Council was the fourth largest local government area in Queensland for our caseload last year in terms of the total number of customers who contacted us about a problem with their electricity, gas or water retailer or distributor last year,” Ms Pires said.
“Half of all complaints from Logan consumers during this period were billing disputes, including concerns about high bills, estimated bills and billing errors.
“Credit-related issues were also problematic, particularly payment difficulties and disconnections, as well as issues with new and existing connections.”
Ms Pires said while there had been an 11 per cent decrease in EWOQ’s overall caseload across Queensland in 2019-2020, the number of complex complaints escalating to an investigation had increased by 16 percent during this period compared with the previous financial year.
“Our statewide case data demonstrates energy and water providers managed routine matters more effectively over the past 12 months but when issues were complex – as for 1897 of our customers – we helped reach an outcome that was fair and reasonable for both industry and the consumer,” she said.
“We negotiated $878,849 worth of monetary outcomes for customers during 2019-2020, including 963 goodwill gestures, 401 billing adjustments and 102 debt waivers, with 84 per cent of the cases we closed problems with electricity, followed by eight per cent about gas and six per cent about water.”
Ms Pires said it had been reassuring to see government and industry act quickly to introduce additional protections and measures to ease pressure on consumers in response to COVID-19.
“As the economic effects of the pandemic continue to impact the lives and livelihoods of consumers, we expect our service will play an ever-increasing role in supporting Queenslanders needing help with hardship support, rebates and concessions – many for the first time,” she said.
“If consumers are worried about paying their bills, the best thing they can do is get in touch with their energy or water provider as soon as they can to find out about payment plans and extensions, and any rebates or concessions they may be entitled to.
“If they’re not happy with the outcome or need further support, contact us – the Energy and Water Ombudsman Queensland – at www.ewoq.com.au or call 1800 662 837 for help.”