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Annual reports
Catherine Wolthuizen

"We made important changes to how EWOV delivers its dispute resolution services"

While the intense restrictions of the COVID-19 pandemic hit hard, and the almost constant need to adjust how we were working was often difficult and frustrating, EWOV has emerged from the past few years a more agile, flexible, creative and robust organisation.

2021-22 saw us focus on building our capabilities in five key areas — communications, information exchange, knowledge, data as a service, and accessibility — to deliver on the three 'find you, explain it for you, work with you' commitments of the EWOV Promise. This work has been challenging, but it's making sure our efforts are focused where they'll be most valuable — and that what we do and how we do it reflect current stakeholder expectations.

We made important changes to how EWOV delivers its dispute resolution services. New ways of working were introduced to better align with the new case management system. Improved use of data and feedback mechanisms put the emphasis on quality outcomes, rather than process compliance. Measures of customer and scheme participant satisfaction and experience reflect our focus on positive engagement with both parties to resolve disputes.

For four years now, EWOV's cases have fallen — down from 31,180 in 2018-19 to 16,038 in 2021-22. Clearly, the extended pandemic has contributed to this trend. So too have regulatory interventions and government financial support to help people stay afloat and pay their bills. Added to this, energy and water companies have continued to show compassion for customer circumstances, holding off on disconnections and debt collection. We're also confident that years of work by EWOV to share our complaints handling experience has helped to improve outcomes and reduce complaints.

In all aspects of our work during 2021-22, the EWOV team was guided by values, behaviours and work practices built around trust, innovation, diversity, and high quality. Our focus was — and continues to be — on ensuring EWOV remains as relevant as it was when it first opened to complaints over 26 years ago. Much has changed in that time, but the need for EWOV hasn't.

You can read the Ombudsman's full overview of the year in our report.

Case studies

High bills due to meter mix-up


Alex contacted EWOV on behalf of their daughter, a disability pensioner. After two unusually high bills, Alex wondered whether there might be something wrong with the electricity meter at their daughter's unit. As a test, they'd turned the meter off at the mains. They found it was still recording, but the meter for the unit next door wasn't.

Alex said the higher bills started after the tenant next door moved out and a family moved in. The electricity retailer's response was that their daughter must have given the wrong meter number on moving in two years earlier. The electricity distributor sent them back to the retailer. Worried about more high bills, and because their daughter now was concerned about using the heating, Alex contacted EWOV.

We registered the complaint as an Assisted Referral. Alex came back to us saying the retailer had advised the meters were now labelled correctly. But the next bill was still very high, showed the previous meter number, and included a charge of $445 for a meter investigation. Alex said they questioned it and were simply told the billing was correct.

We opened an Investigation. The retailer responded saying the distributor had confirmed that the meters for the adjoining units had been mixed up. The bills based on the wrong meter were cancelled and re-billed correctly. The resulting credit of $1,990.94 was paid to their daughter's bank account. Alex was satisfied with the outcome. The complaint was closed. 2021/12615

Customer with very high arrears offered a debt waiver to leave


Paying $20 a month, Val had gas arrears of $4,297 and, combined with electricity, total energy arrears of $9,064.88. Val's gas was disconnected soon after they agreed to switch to another retailer in return for a full waiver of their energy arrears. Val arranged to switch, but the transfer couldn't be completed because the gas had been disconnected.

The energy retailer responded to our Investigation, confirming Val's arrears. It also confirmed its offer of a full waiver if Val switched to another retailer, and its reconnection condition of $1,000 upfront. Once Val complained to EWOV this offer conflicted with EWOV's Reconnection/Derestriction Policy.

When Val's gas was still not reconnected a week later, the complaint was upgraded to Final Stage under our Complaint Upgrade Policy. Following discussion with both parties, we confirmed to the retailer that Val accepted its offer and understood that the gas reconnection was only for the purpose of enabling account transfer. The retailer agreed to reconnect. The complaint was closed. 2021/14142

We also opened an Investigation into whether the disconnection of Val's gas was wrongful. Our Investigation found that a wrongful disconnection payment wasn't applicable because, in its disconnection of the gas, the retailer had followed the law. EWOV/2022/0007665.

Responsibility for lost rental income


Wanting to make changes within their shop/residence property, Danny requested the relocation of the electricity meters. After emailing the request form to the retailer, Danny's electrician found out it had to be lodged online. All up, it took four months to get the works completed. The delays were due to a combination of factors — the need to submit amended paperwork, the distributor having to move the supply line to a different location, Danny's electrician installing the wrong meter, and then the meter failing an inspection.

Danny was seeking compensation for the loss of $1,734 in monthly rental income, for poor customer service, and for significant stress. The retailer offered $1,240.40 ($1,040.40 for loss of rental income and a $200 customer service payment).

Our Investigation concluded that the retailer had addressed each aspect of Danny's complaint on a fair and reasonable basis. We found that the retailer was responsible for a delay of 18 days, which equated to loss of rent of $1,026.18. This was less than the amount offered by the retailer. Having listened to the call recordings between Danny and the retailer, we agreed with the retailer's offer of a customer service payment of $200.

EWOV doesn't investigate claims for injuries to a customer's psychological or emotional state, but we provided Danny with information on how they might make a claim through other processes. 2021/8232

Seeking compensation for outlays to deal with planned outage


Faced with a planned power outage, Gus hired a generator and paid an electrician to connect it to keep their business running. When the generator couldn't be connected by opening time, Gus had to cancel bookings. Gus said it cost them around $4,000. Faced with a second planned outage, and business stresses due to COVID-19 lockdowns, Gus contacted EWOV seeking compensation.

After an Assisted Referral, Gus returned saying the distributor maintained the works were essential. It also told Gus the business should have plans in place to deal with power outages.

Responding to our Investigation, the distributor said the two outages were needed to connect a new customer. It showed it had sent Gus the correct notification for each outage, as well as two SMS reminders each time. It said business customers need to plan for electricity outages, and that it doesn't offer compensation unless the outage causes damage to property or appliances.

We confirmed to Gus that the distributor's actions were in line with its rights under the Electricity Distribution Code of Practice — it may interrupt supply for planned maintenance, repair, or system augmentation [5.3] with at least 4 business days' written notice of the interruption [5.5.1 (a)]. We also highlighted the Code requirement that a business customer must take reasonable precautions to minimise risk of loss or damage to its equipment, premises or business [16 (c)].

While not happy with the Investigation outcome, Gus said they understood the Code provisions. 2021/9580

Bills didn't reflect website information


Jerry said that they signed up to a single-rate solar tariff based on information on their retailer's website. After installing solar, their first bill showed they were on a Time of Use (TOU). We provided Jerry with an Assisted Referral to a higher-level contact within the retailer. Jerry said they were first told that their previous single-rate tariff could be restored, but then they were told it couldn't be. The retailer offered an account credit. Their next bill was based on the TOU tariff again. Jerry was concerned the solar contract and marketing was misleading from the beginning.

We opened an Investigation. The retailer confirmed that Jerry had signed up to a single-rate tariff. However, when the local electricity distributor configured the meter at their property for solar, the tariff was changed to TOU. It said it had raised a tariff change request with the distributor and, in early October 2021, the distributor had changed Jerry's tariff back to single-rate. It apologised that Jerry's most recent bill was still on TOU. It sent Jerry a new single-rate bill and increased its offer to $350, which Jerry accepted. Jerry was satisfied with the outcome of our Investigation. The complaint was closed. 2021/11490

Seeking early release from four-year contract


The operations of Darcy's business were severely affected by COVID-19. Darcy was selling the business and wanted to be released from the four-year electricity contract struck in 2019, saying they hadn't agreed to a four-year term. The electricity retailer wouldn't agree to the transfer unless the business paid an early termination fee of just under $100,000.

Responding to our Investigation, the electricity retailer provided evidence that the signed four-year contract had been emailed to the retailer by the energy broker engaged by Darcy's business. The retailer also provided a copy of a letter of authority between Darcy's business and the energy broker, which confirmed that the broker had the authority to make decisions and had selected the four-year term. The retailer offered Darcy some other options, all of which would require the business to remain with the retailer.

Our Investigation confirmed that the retailer hadn't received any information to indicate that Darcy was either unaware of the four-year period or didn't consent to it. We assessed that the early termination fee was payable if Darcy wanted to close the account before the contract period ended. We advised Darcy to contact the energy broker directly if they were concerned about how it had acted on behalf of their business. The complaint was closed. 2021/8339

2021-22 snapshots

We received 16,038 cases overall. 9,828 cases (61%) were about electricity, 4,739 cases (30%) were about gas, and 1,350 cases (8%) were about water.

In all three industries, cases were down against 2020-21. Electricity cases were down 17%, gas cases were down 22% and water cases were down 11%.

Across all industries, billing was the most common issue.

We finalised 14,145 cases — 794 as Enquiries, 2,113 as Unassisted Referrals, 8,863 as Assisted Referrals and 2,375 as Investigations.

Use the map’s zoom controls and drag the map to find the desired area. Hover, click or tap on a council area to see a breakdown of cases and customers. Arrows indicate areas where case numbers increased in 2021-22.


92% of EWOV cases came from residential customers and 8% from business customers. 72% of customers told us they were from greater Melbourne and 22% said they were from regional/rural Victoria.

Of the residential customers, 2% identified as Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander. 48% of the residential customers told us they were homeowners, and 52% told us they were tenants.

56% of customers contacted us by calling our 1800 number, down from 74% five years ago. 30% of customers used our online complaint form, 8% emailed us, and 7% used the webchat facility on our website.

Investigation outcomes

2,339 cases (15%) progressed to an EWOV Investigation, with 98.6% of Investigations closed with 180 days. From our Investigations, $1,541,815.57 was provided by companies to customers.

In addition, from the 160 Wrongful Disconnection Payment assessments we completed, $126,064 was paid to 67 customers (an average payment of $1,882).

Hover over the visualisation for more information.

Electricity, gas and water

We received 9,828 electricity cases, down 17% from 2020-21. The top 5 electricity issues were tariff, provision at an existing connection, unplanned outage, high bill, and billing error.

We received 4,739 gas cases, down 22% from 2020-21. The top 5 gas issues were high bill, billing error, estimated billing, debt collection/credit default listing, and provision at an existing connection.

We received 1,350 water cases, down 11% from 2020-21. The top 5 water issues were high bill, placement and operation of water network assets, fees and charges, billing error and property damage.

Company data

Small, medium and large companies as defined by Essential Services Commission. Source: Essential Services Commission, Victorian Energy Market Report 2020-21

Small, medium and large companies as defined by Essential Services Commission. Source: Essential Services Commission, Victorian Energy Market Report 2020-21


How we group complaint issues:


Generating and sending customer bills; processing payments; information on bills.


Disconnections, payment difficulties, payment plan, debt collection, credit rating and default listing.

Customer service

Service, or lack of service, received from the company.


How a company's activities or its network assets impact customers' land or property.


The process a gas or electricity retailer uses to win a new customer.


Related to the Australian Privacy Principles.


Connection or disconnection to the network of electricity or gas (including LPG); connection or restriction of water.


The physical delivery of energy or water, including the quality of supply, variations in supply, failure to supply, and damage caused by the supply or by the failure to supply.


When the billing of a gas or electricity supply transfers from one retailer to another.

General enquiry

Cases that do not fit under more specific categories.