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Catherine Wolthuizen

"The issues consumers and businesses are navigating remain dynamic and complex."

Like many organisations, EWOV is looking ahead to 2023 with a close eye on current and emerging issues for energy and water consumers and markets. While the decline in our overall case numbers was slightly sharper in the final quarter last year, our data insights shine a light on several issues that are of increasing concern to consumers including high bills, debt collection and billing errors. The issues consumers and businesses are navigating remain dynamic and complex. In a context of cost-of-living pressures, during the quarter we were able to provide free, independent dispute resolution to 3,514 complaints from consumers while focusing on the challenges ahead.

Our key data insights for the quarter show that credit collection and payment difficulties cases remain an area to watch. Credit collection cases rose 15% and payment difficulties cases increased by 9% in October to December 2022 when compared to the July to September 2022 quarter. This may indicate a greater degree of hardship in the Victorian community and a willingness on the part of providers to try to recover debts.

Billing issues remain the primary driver for consumers to come to EWOV. Billing cases make up 51% of all EWOV cases so far this financial year, an increase from 46% in the previous year. This is not surprising, given the price increases that started to filter through to consumer bills in the middle of 2022.

We saw the usual seasonal decline in cases in the final quarter of 2022, down 19% when compared to the previous quarter. The final quarter is usually the quietest quarter for EWOV, and our cases were down 6% when compared with the same period in 2021.

In the Issues Watch section of this report, we explore trends we’re seeing in billing and credit issues, EWOV’s role in supporting trust and confidence in new energy markets and the renewable energy transition, and our actions in response to the recent flooding emergencies in several areas of the state.

Read on for more detail in the latest edition of Reflect. As always, you can find more data relating to our casework in the Data Hub.

Issues watch

With consumers facing multiple affordability challenges, including rising energy prices in many cases, we’ve seen a corresponding impact on our case numbers. In this context, there is increased price sensitivity as both residential and small business consumers watch closely for any billing changes. High bill cases were the top sub-issue for the 2022 calendar year again, while billing tariff cases have increased in the current financial year, an increase of 95 cases in the financial year to date.

In the 2021-22 financial year, tariff cases were the fifth highest sub issue for consumers coming to EWOV at 1,029 cases, behind concerns about high bills (1,714 cases), billing error (1,300), existing connection provision (1,179) and credit collection (1,079). So far in the 2022-23 financial year, tariff cases are the third highest sub issue type, rising above existing connection and credit collection cases.

In the October to December 2022 quarter, credit collection cases rose 15% to 211 cases. Payment difficulties cases also increased in the quarter, rising 9%. Our data insights are showing that payment relief issues, such as consumer concession and URGS (Utility Relief Grant Scheme) eligibility, continue to be an issue for consumers. We are monitoring issues related to concession validation, particularly with providers implementing new billing systems. We’ve also received insights from both consumers and financial counsellors about people missing out on payment assistance and URGS after disconnection for non-payment. In Victoria, the retailer is required to restore supply after disconnection if a consumer is eligible for URGS and an application is made within 10 business days. Energy businesses should be making consumers who contact them aware of entitlements and assistance before disconnection.

In the Outreach section of this report, we highlight the work we’re doing in the community to help consumers work through issues with affordability of energy and water, as well as raising awareness of concessions and grants available to consumers.

The transition to renewable energy sources is an important and unprecedented shift in how energy is generated and distributed. From new major infrastructure projects to distributed energy resources such as rooftop solar, there are many new opportunities and challenges for both businesses and consumers to navigate. Ensuring consumers are both empowered and protected through this generational change is key. We are focused on making sure consumers and businesses can access fit-for-purpose, independent dispute resolution to keep pace with the changes and support positive consumer and market outcomes.

In November, we made a submission to the Victorian Government’s consultation on protecting consumers of distributed energy resources, such as solar panels, batteries and electric vehicles. We highlighted the importance of consumer protection in the growing industry, to help consumers gain trust and confidence in the markets, and reduce market harms when accessing complex products. We outlined ways EWOV’s jurisdiction could be expanded, to allow us to enhance consumer protections in this space and play a key role in stewarding positive outcomes for consumers and businesses as the market evolves.

When it comes to new infrastructure to support the energy transition, the Western Renewables Link (WRL), is a proposed 190-kilometre transmission project designed to carry renewable energy from Western Victoria to Melbourne. This major development includes access to private land, and we are investigating and resolving complaints from impacted landholders. We have also encouraged transparency of information for communities including interactive maps which have assisted communities to understand and assess the impacts of proposed developments. We are also sharing our insights from this development, combined with our experience as an independent dispute resolution scheme, to inform the Essential Services Commission’s proposed new Land Access Code of Practice to shape positive, evidence-based consumer and market outcomes in this area. Read our submission for more information.

We’re monitoring the ongoing impact of floods in late 2022, with consumers facing many energy and water issues related to damaged property. After the floods hit, we began a ‘crisis communication’ campaign to consumers in affected areas, to help raise awareness of issues related to the flooding and how to access EWOV for help if they had issues or complaints that needed resolution. These communications reached more than 80,000 consumers in the affected areas.

During times of crisis, insights from our cases suggest that consumers seek to connect with their suppliers quickly and easily. When engaging around restoration times, compensation and outage payments, they seek clear, concise information. Consumers are often dealing with multiple issues and providers, and navigating information and help can be stressful if support isn’t optimal.

It’s important that energy and water providers remain accessible for consumers at this time and support consumers as they work through these issues, to minimise impact and reduce the occurrence of complaints.

The big picture

  • Between October and December 2022, we received 3,767 cases.
  • Credit collection cases increased by 15% compared to the previous quarter.
  • Payment difficulties cases also increased (up 9%) when compared to the previous quarter.
  • Billing cases fell 25% compared to the previous quarter and were up 5% compared to the October to December 2021 quarter.
  • We received 499 high bill cases from October to December 2022, up slightly from 449 high bill cases from the same time last year.
  • Credit cases fell 1% in the quarter, compared to the previous quarter. Credit cases were also down 9% when compared to the same quarter last year.
  • During the quarter, our cases decreased 19% compared to the previous quarter and 6% compared to the same quarter in 2021.


  • Reflect and Data Hub data is a ‘live’ view of case data up to the end of the previous period.
  • Cases can sometimes be amended, reopened and reallocated — adjustments made to cases in previous quarters will be shown in the previous quarter's figures within the visualisations.
  • For these reasons, there may be discrepancies between previous quarter data presented in the visualisations and the information presented in past editions of Reflect.


We focus on community outreach and engagement to increase the accessibility and awareness of EWOV, to improve Victorians’ experiences of energy and water markets. Our outreach work helps to build relationships with organisations that work with Victorian energy and water consumers who may be at the greatest risk of experiencing financial and other vulnerabilities.

In the final quarter of 2022, we grew our outreach program. Within metropolitan Melbourne, we maintained our focus on engaging with culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) consumers and communities, First Nations communities and Victorians experiencing payment difficulty. We also visited regional areas including Gippsland and Geelong. Regardless of location, the Victorians we spoke to advised us that staying on top of household costs was becoming progressively more difficult, including paying for their utilities.

In Geelong as part of Anti-Poverty Week, we spoke with many older Victorians experiencing vulnerability who expressed concern about not having enough money to pay their bills. One of our most popular events was a Bring Your Bills Day in Flemington. English is the second or third language for the vast majority of residents we engaged with, and many need assistance to interpret their bills and access entitlements. All 20 of the complaints and enquiries we received at this event mentioned payment and financial difficulties.

We also continued to reach and engage with consumers to continue raising awareness about their entitlements including grants, concessions and support available under the Victorian Payment Difficulty Framework. We highlighted the importance of consumers maintaining engagement with their energy and water businesses to access the support that could help with affordability.

Scheme participant data

In our Data Hub, you'll find the latest quarterly case data for all of EWOV's scheme participants.

Public submissions

Protecting Consumers of Distributed Energy Resources (DER) - Consultation Paper

We provided input to the Victorian Department of Energy, Environment and Climate Action (then Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning) on its consultation about protection for consumers of DER. We shared our insights about consumer outcomes and the need for clear redress pathways in the transitioning market. We outlined how and why redress plays an important role in ensuring consumer and business trust and confidence in new and changing markets, and the positive role that EWOV can play and grow in this area.

Read the submission

Financial Counselling Industry Funding Model Discussion Paper

Jointly with other Australian energy and water Ombudsman, we provided comments on the Department of Social Services’ discussion paper on a proposed new financial counselling funding model. We noted the important role that financial counselling services play in fostering trust and confidence in essential services markets, and noted our support for the introduction of the industry funding model which will benefit both industry service providers and their customers.

Read the submission


Visit the Data Hub for a full glossary of terms.