"Disconnection activity is increasing, albeit still at lower levels than pre-COVID, as companies start to return to normal business operations."
Case numbers declined in the first quarter of 2022 compared to the last quarter of 2021, however, we’ve experienced a slight increase in case numbers month-on-month, with March 2022 case numbers up 16% compared to January 2022. It’s too early to predict if this upward trend will continue during the year and if the significant issues in the community will filter through to increased case numbers.
One issue that is clearly on the rise is disconnection cases. Our disconnection complaints rose sharply in the first quarter of 2022, up 58% compared with the last quarter of 2021. More retailers featured in our complaints in the January to March quarter and the number of complaints from customers of large retailers has increased. This data, plus what the retailers are telling us directly, confirms that disconnection activity is increasing, albeit still at lower levels than pre-COVID, as companies start to return to normal business operations. The customer story of Thiago’s struggle to get reconnected, in part due to language barriers, highlights how a focus on the individual and their needs can lead to a positive outcome for both the customer and the retailer.
It has been great to get out into the Victorian community as part of our outreach and engagement activity, to help us understand the issues affecting energy and water customers. We are combining in-person attendance with the continuation of some online forums to maximise the opportunity to provide assistance. We’ve visited the councils of Hume and Wyndham, areas with high financial vulnerability, and heard from customers concerned about rising debt levels, disconnection and debt collection. Thank you to the Consumer Action Law Centre, the Wyndham Humanitarian Network, the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre and others for inviting us along to events.
The work in this edition of Reflect happened under the tenure of Cynthia Gebert, our former Ombudsman. We thank Cynthia for the lasting impact she has had on Victoria’s energy and water sector and for her positive leadership of EWOV. We wish her well in her new role as the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman.
Read on for more detail and, as always, you can find more data relating to our casework in the Data Hub.