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Annual reports
Catherine Wolthuizen

"It’s clear that access to free, fair and independent external resolution must remain relevant and keep pace with evolving consumer needs, technologies and business models."

2022-2023 was a year of evolving and new challenges, opportunities and priorities – many of which continue this current financial year. One of my key reflections from my first year with EWOV, is how many common and positive interests we share with consumers, providers, government, regulators and the wider community. We are all here to help improve outcomes for energy and water markets in Victoria.

Our case numbers stabilised to a degree after falling for four years, a time that coincided with COVID-19 measures such as reduced disconnections and debt collection, and increased government financial support. In the 2022-23 financial year, we received 15,262 cases, down slightly from 16,038 in the previous year.

While it is hard to predict overall case numbers, based on insights gained through data analysis, considerations of emerging trends such as price rises, and increased credit activity, we anticipate a modest increase in the 2023-24 period.

As consumers and markets make the shift to renewable sources of energy, EWOV is positioned to help support trust and confidence through free, independent, accessible, effective and fair alternative dispute resolution.

New consumer energy resources and expanded transmission networks, in particular, present challenges around issues such as billing and payment difficulties, land access, privacy and customer service. Effective external dispute resolution is critical for maintaining consumer trust in evolving and complex markets.

It’s clear that access to free, fair and independent external resolution must remain relevant and keep pace with evolving consumer needs, technologies and business models. In fact, as a key safety net, dispute resolution must remain a step ahead of evolving consumer needs and business models.

As industry and policymakers consider these issues going forward, we will continue to make our unique data and insights available to support the transition.

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

Case studies

High estimated bill

High bill | Estimated reads | Meter access issues | Utility Relief Grant

Sarah* called EWOV to lodge a complaint as she was unhappy with her provider in relation to a high estimated bill. She had received an estimated bill of $844.02 and didn’t think it was correct.
The provider then sent a letter to Sarah as she doesn’t have a phone or an email address, advising that the estimated bill is due to meter access issues. The gas account previously had a credit of $212.73 before the estimated bill was issued. Sarah then paid the bill by cheque for $746.80 which was the amount with the “pay on time” discount.

Sarah did not receive a response from her provider within the designated time frame, and she also believed the financial cost for a special read was not previously stated. Two months later, Sarah contacted EWOV expressing dissatisfaction with the outcome and handling of her case. She mentioned that her concerns were not being understood and that the provider had failed to explain how they arrived at what she considered to be an unreasonable estimate and questioned why it was so high, and was also concerned that the provider might make similar estimates in the future. She mentioned that due to security reasons, her gate needed to be kept locked, and she lacked telephone or internet access to provide self-reads.

Despite her previous efforts in contacting her provider from a public telephone her issue remained unresolved. Because of the extended duration it takes for letters to reach and be processed, Sarah experienced difficulty meeting response deadlines. As a solution, Sarah wanted her case escalated to a team leader to review the letter and complaint. EWOV sought to have the issue rectified as soon as possible, which resulted in an actual reading obtained, and the account was re-billed.

EWOV also observed from the provider’s notes that Sarah had previously requested a Utility Relief Grant Scheme (URGS) form, however, as the account was in credit at the time of the form being issued, she was not eligible to apply. During our investigation, we reviewed all available information and communicated with both the provider and Sarah about the investigation.

We considered:

•laws and regulations related to the case
•the consumer’s circumstances
•how the provider calculated an estimated meter read.

The above factors were used to assess whether the provider’s position, response and offer to Sarah’s concerns about estimated bills and meter access were fair and reasonable in the circumstances.

After EWOV’s investigation which carefully considered Sarah’s unease regarding gate access and her concerns about future estimated reads, the provider took necessary action to ensure her issues were rectified.

The provider agreed to use its ‘best endeavours’ to ensure that an actual meter read will be taken at least once per calendar year, and would consider waiving a special meter read fee once per calendar year where there has been no actual meter read obtained for 12 months, if requested by Sarah.

It confirmed that if an actual meter read cannot be taken due to hindered access to a meter, an estimated bill may be issued which is calculated using Approved Estimated Methodology.
To resolve the meter access difficulty, the provider also agreed that it will accept self-meter reads from Sarah via post and will re-bill the account accordingly.

The provider agreed to apply URGS onto Sarah’s account. Sarah was satisfied with the changes made to her billing and future meter reads, and EWOV accepted that the provider presented reasonable options for Sarah to be billed correctly in the future, and we closed the case as a Fair Offer Assessment.

* Name has been changed

Family violence victim‑survivor’s address revealed

Privacy | Family violence | Customer service

Regina* called us on our 1800 number with a complaint about her electricity provider. She was dissatisfied about a breach of privacy.

A victim-survivor of family violence, Regina had moved out of her previous address, where her ex-partner was listed as a joint account holder with the electricity provider. Regina told us that when she moved into a new property, she created an account under her name only. Regina said she then received a text message from her ex-partner, showing that the electricity provider had included the ex-partner’s name as a joint account holder at the new address and sent them a copy of the bill. Concerned for her safety, Regina told us she needed to buy security cameras for protection.

Regina wanted a privacy breach reported and for the provider to consider compensation of several thousands of dollars in recognition of the breach, including reimbursement for installation of a new security system.

Due to the sensitive concerns attached to this case, we worked quickly and progressed Regina’s case straight to an investigation because of family violence. We asked the provider not to contact Regina about the matter while we conducted our investigation.

As part of our thorough investigation, we asked the provider how Regina’s address was exposed to her ex-partner. The provider explained that, when Regina contacted it to close the original account, it added Regina’s new address as a forwarding address – a standard practice when a consumer is vacating a property. It said Regina did not disclose family violence but acknowledged that it did not advise Regina that her forwarding address would display on future invoices.

Having exposed this crucial gap in the provider’s training (both initial and ongoing) it agreed to update its scripting and guidance procedures to ensure it won’t disclose this information in the future.

To assist Regina further, the provider advised that it could offer half of the monetary compensation Regina was seeking as a goodwill gesture, rather than paying for any security cameras to be installed. It also confirmed that it removed Regina’s ex-partner from her account and that the ex-partner would no longer receive future emails linked to Regina.

Regina accepted the goodwill gesture and was confident there would be no future breaches of privacy. As a result, the complaint was closed.

* Name has been changed

Customer service complaint about permit leads to VCAT application on flood risk

Customer service | Flooding | Jurisdiction

Katya* called us with a complaint about her water provider. She told us she had a planning permit rejected on her block of land due to a flood risk. Katya employed a coastal engineer and believed her property was not in a flood zone. Katya was dissatisfied with the customer service, informing us the water provider had not responded to her complaint and had just said it was acting on the advice of the Victorian Government department.

We set a fair and reasonable expectation with Katya, telling her that EWOV does not have jurisdiction over the planning permit process. Katya still wanted our assistance with the matter, so we raised an Assisted Referral, putting Katya in contact with a high-level representative at the water provider. After speaking to the representative, Katya contacted us and said that the water provider had put drainage pipes in a street behind her house which services a creek.

Because of these pipes, Katya believed that her property should not be classified as being in a flood zone, as this drain would mitigate any risk of flood and would capture any overflow of water. The water provider continued to refuse her permit, and advised that the decision to classify flood zones are made by Department of Energy, Environment and Climate Action (DEECA).

We began an investigation to try to get more information for Katya on her issue. We learned from the water provider that it had rejected the proposed development due to current and projected flood depths. We requested further information from the water provider about Katya’s options to overcome the depth of flooding issue. We also organised a conference between Katya and the water provider, facilitated by EWOV, to help address the issues and extract more information. The water provider answered Katya’s questions during the conference, and Katya advised that she would be appealing against the water provider’s decision to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT).

As the questions raised by Katya had been addressed by the water provider and the appeal of its decision was out of our jurisdiction, we asked Katya to send through any new information or we would close the case. As no new information was provided and we did everything we could in our jurisdiction to assist Katya, we closed Katya’s case noting the information discovered during the investigation and Katya’s right of appeal with VCAT.

* Name has been changed

Family violence victim-survivor struggling with debts

Family violence | Financial abuse | Privacy breach | Payment difficulties

A financial counsellor reached out to EWOV on behalf of their client, Sharna* who was a victim-survivor of family violence. The client had been struggling to receive adequate assistance from her energy provider, which eventually led to sensitive account information being sent to the alleged perpetrator. Our investigation revealed that the account was in Sharna’s name, but the other party had been receiving the invoices through their email address as they used to handle the payment of utility bills. Sharna also became aware of unpaid bills totalling over $20,000 in 2022.

Sharna sought to work with the energy provider while she was in the process of selling the family home as part of the separation and to settle other outstanding debts (accumulated due to ongoing financial abuse). She contacted her energy provider three times (in the course of four months) to disclose that she was affected by family violence. Sharna also wanted to request an affordable payment plan and gain access to other potential financial supports, such as backdated concessions and an Utility Relief Grant Scheme (URGS) allocated to persons affected by family violence.

In Sharna’s first contact with the energy provider, it attempted to transfer Sharna to its dedicated support team. After a 15-minute wait time, the line was disconnected and we later discovered the support team had declined to accept Sharna into its payment assistance process. Furthermore, no flag was placed on Sharna’s account to indicate her situation or establish a safe method of communication. Sharna was not called back.

After receiving another collection contact, Sharna contacted her energy provider again to let it know about her situation. During this call, Sharna was asked about her financial situation and at key moments, asked the energy provider to not mention what was owing (as she found this information distressing) and that she didn’t have access to any money, as the alleged perpetrator had ‘locked her out’.

After noting that she would be able to afford a fortnightly payment plan of $20, the energy provider advised Sharna that they wouldn’t disconnect the energy supply as long as she stuck to the payment plan. She was placed on hold for 20 minutes and the call was disconnected. Sharna was not called back. Her account was not flagged in the context of family violence and the payment plan was not activated on the account.

In a third attempt to seek assistance, Sharna contacted her energy provider and again disclosed that she was experiencing family violence. She was successfully transferred to the relevant support team, where her account was flagged and additional payment assistance was discussed. Sharna was also informed about her eligibility for URGS and an interim payment plan was set up. Unfortunately, the energy provider did not ensure a safe method of communication was created, and accidentally emailed the URGS application to the other party, which disclosed Sharna’s situation. This error resulted in Sharna being contacted and further subjected to abuse by the alleged perpetrator.

After EWOV’s investigation, the energy provider agreed to waive the overall debt, to ensure that the account would be appropriately flagged and for Sharna to be accepted in its payment assistance support program.

As part of EWOV’s engagement with the energy provider, it advised EWOV that all frontline customer service staff would receive quarterly family violence refresher training . The energy provider also undertook a review of all consumer accounts to ensure that where consumer accounts were flagged as being affected by family violence, it would apply proper controls and processes so the required protections were in place and customer information was secured.

* Name has been changed

Vulnerable consumer facing imminent disconnection

Imminent disconnection | Arrears | Grants

Steve* called us about his gas account and some notices he’d received about imminent disconnection. He had a disability that made communication difficult and was concerned about disconnection.
Dissatisfied, Steve came to us for help. When Steve called us, he said the bills were previously in his ex-partner’s name which was historically correct, but they had since moved out, and then suddenly the bills were in his name without his consent. The provider confirmed that the account was indeed changed into Steve’s name, however, it could not locate any customer service notes to explain how or why. The provider confirmed it could not prove that Explicit Informed Consent was provided by the customer and the name change was rectified.

As the arrears were mounting up to more than $3,000, Steve was feeling very overwhelmed and suspected that he was getting estimated bills.
Concerned, we immediately raised an Assisted Referral with Steve’s provider. Steve returned to us saying he had not received any contact. Steve also believed he had missed out on five or six grants, such as an utility relief grant, due to his disability.

We proceeded with an investigation and requested information from the provider. It confirmed that the gas meter reads were actual reads. It told us that Steve had previous debt that had been sold to an external party.
Steve’s provider bought back the debt from the external party and requested that Steve make a payment plan towards the recovered debt, but he advised that this would be very difficult in his situation.

Due to the consumer’s vulnerabilities and inability to establish a long-term payment plan, the provider waived the total debt, which Steve was very relieved to hear and told us he was satisfied with the case outcome.
We closed the case and recommended that the provider improve its privacy protection processes for consumers and to re-train its employees regarding Explicit Informed Consent, which it agreed to.

We also provided Steve with information about the Victorian Government Power Saving Bonus, technical energy saving tips, further information on other government services, and how to contact the provider’s resolution team if he had any questions.

* Name has been changed

Usage of gas ducted heating leads to high arrears

High bill | Arrears | Payment plan

Bella* contacted us on our live chat on and told us she had arrears of over $5,000. She was living in a government transitional home, was in financial hardship, had mental health issues and was a victim‑survivor of family violence.

Bella had lived in the house for three years and used the two‑bedroom unit’s ducted heating, stovetop, and water. When she first moved into the property, it was winter and she used the ducted heating a lot. After Bella’s first bill came in at almost $1,000, she arranged for the meter and heater to be checked but was advised these were was operating normally. Bella wanted the high bills investigated, for the provider to consider reducing the arrears and to provide hardship assistance.

We bypassed the usual Assisted Referral stage because of Bella’s experience of family violence, mental illness and homelessness. We went straight to a Stage 2 investigation and requested information from the provider. We also had our Technical Consultant review Bella’s consumption data to provide her advice and recommendations on how she can save energy in the future.

We found that Bella’s gas meter data matched her bills, meaning she was billed correctly for usage. We saw that gas consumption was high in the winter of 2019 and peaked over the winter of 2020. Since then, as Bella started to become aware of the cost of running gas ducted heating, usage decreased along with Bella’s bills. We made recommendations to Bella to keep future gas usage to a minimum by setting the thermostat no higher than 20 degrees and by being conscious of how long the heater is operating.

From the information given by the provider, we saw that payment assistance was provided, including a payment plan and it applied the utility relief grant to her account. As part of the Investigation, the provider offered a goodwill gesture of credits totalling almost $1,500 and provided tailored assistance because of her vulnerable circumstances.

Bella confirmed that she was satisfied with the outcome, and we closed the case, providing Bella with information about the Power Saving Bonus and detailed technical advice from our consultant.

* Name has been changed

2022-23 snapshots

We received 15,262 cases overall. 8,797 cases (58%) were about electricity, 5,092 cases (33%) were about gas, and 1,289 cases (8%) were about water.

Gas were up 7% and water cases were down 5% compared to last year.

Across all industries, billing was the most common issue.

We finalised 176 Wrongful disconnection payment assessments, with $86,079 paid to customers.

There were $803,990 in billing adjustments, service payments and debt waivers for customers through EWOV 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 7% from business customers. 75% of customers told us they were from greater Melbourne and 21% said they were from regional/rural Victoria.

Of the residential customers, 47% of the residential customers told us they were homeowners, and 53% told us they were tenants.

51% of customers contacted us by calling our 1800 number, down from 5% last year. 37% of customers used our online complaint form, up 7% from last year. 8% emailed us, and 4% used the webchat facility on our website.

Investigation outcomes

89.7% of our Stage 1 cases were resolved within one month. From all our Investigations, (654), 43.8% were resolved within one month.

We finalised 176 Wrongful Disconnection Payment (WDP) assessments, with a total amount of $86,079 being paid to consumers (average of $1,913).

Hover over the visualisation for more information.

Electricity, gas and water

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.