A message from the Ombudsman

Janine Young, Ombudsman, Energy & Water Ombudsman NSWThere’s no doubt we’re living in a time where Ombudsman schemes are being challenged to step up and make a difference. EWON staff are now in their fifth month of working from home. Our Investigations Team, especially our front line staff, are beginning to hear from an increasing number of customers who are experiencing extreme stress.

Almost five months after COVID-19 completely altered the way we work and live, many customers are now facing higher bills and possibly, accrued debt. Positively, and reflecting the additional support provided to customers by governments, regulators and providers, we have seen an overall 23.4% decrease in complaints to EWON this quarter.

We welcomed the extension of the AER’s Statement of Expectations until the 31 October 2020. This will continue to protect customers experiencing, or at risk of experiencing financial vulnerability. We expect complaints to increase over time when government stimulus support is reduced – although it is difficult to know when that will occur.

Uncertainty is the current norm. For that reason, I strongly encourage all consumers, and community workers who are supporting their clients, to contact energy retailers and where necessary, set up affordable payment plans. This will help to prevent debt accrual and potentially, down the track, disconnection.

EWON’s virtual community engagement and social media is focused on reminding customers to contact their energy/water provider to ask for assistance now – before debt levels become unmanageable. You can watch my video message on how EWON can assist with increased energy bills resulting from the winter months and COVID-19. You can also catch up on our COVID-19 digital campaign, that has already reached over 985,000 customers on Facebook and Instagram throughout May and June.

Janine Young
Energy & Water Ombudsman NSW