Consumer complaints about electricity bills have soared in the last 12 months across New South Wales, with 17,800 complaints lodged – up 22 per cent from the 2020–21 period.
As cost-of-living pressures rise and consumers continue to struggle, the Energy and Water Ombudsman is facing increased pressure from consumers.
Whilst last year’s numbers were concerning enough, the Ombudsman says the number of complaints is on track to increase by a further 49 per cent during the 2023-24 financial year, as electricity price rises continue to flow through to households.
Throughout the state, electricity accounted for 77 per cent of total complaints to the Energy and Water Ombudsman, with gas accounting for 18 per cent and complaints about water just 4 per cent.
Almost 12,000 of the complaints received by the New South Wales Energy and Water Ombudsman were billing-related and more than 5000 were for disputed high bills, a segment which rose 35 per cent on the previous year. Complaints about debt collection and energy disconnections also rose.
A national survey was conducted by CHOICE earlier this year and had 1035 responses from households. Findings from the CHOICE September Consumer Pulse Survey 2023 highlighted that the number of households struggling with electricity bills has increased significantly, with 85 per cent of households concerned about the current cost of electricity, up from 65 per cent of households in 2020
New South Wales Energy and Water Ombudsman CEO, Janine Young said, “Price increases have meant the number of people who can’t afford energy is growing, which means it puts more people at risk of disconnection.
“It puts more people at risk of debt collection, and more people are telling us that they’re not having dinner: they’re feeding their kids, but not themselves because there’s not enough money for both and for the electricity bill.
“People who have never had to ask for assistance in the past are now finding themselves in that position, people who are working.
“People are now paying much higher mortgage payments and much higher rent payments each month. Higher electricity and gas bills are really tipping them over the edge,” Ms Young said.
Ms Young also added it was important that households that are struggling financially contact their electricity retailers and ensure that they are on the best plan or policy, and also check they are getting all the rebates, concessions or payment plans they may be eligible for. Ms Young also noted that anyone who is unsatisfied with their retailer’s response should contact their state ombudsman service.