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Overall cases by industry (July-September 2018)
Jul-Sep 2017 Oct-Dec 2017 Jan-Mar 2018 Apr-Jun 2018 Jul-Sep 2018
529 463 453 508 495
5,031 4,924 5,755 5,530 5,727
8,653 8,523 8,873 8,690 9,789
Note: All quarterly totals include Dual Fuel and Other Industry cases. In the January to March 2018 quarter there were 11 Dual Fuel and 49 Other Industry cases.
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Top three issues by industry (July-September 2018)
- Billing 43%
- Credit 19%
- Provision 13%
- Other 25%
- Billing 48%
- Credit 19%
- Transfer 14%
- Other 19%
- Billing 55%
- Credit 12%
- Land 11%
- Other 22%
Free and independent dispute resolution is a big step forward, but …
Since July 2018, Victorian electricity customers in embedded networks have been able to lodge complaints with EWOV. Access to EWOV is a big step forward for tens of thousands of people living in retirement villages, caravan parks and apartment buildings, and for small businesses operating in shopping centres.
Despite the positive changes, embedded network customers tell us they're frustrated by the complexities of getting different offers and switching retailer — to the point that they just give up.
In the first three months of EWOV's new jurisdiction, we received 124 embedded network cases.
Billing was the top issue, raised in 76 cases:
- high (26 cases)
- tariff (21 cases)
- fees and charges (9 cases)
- backbill (8 cases)
Transfer (the process of switching electricity retailer) was raised in 15 cases. 14 of these were about an objection raised when the customer tried to switch, usually related to metering.
Embedded network customers have the right to switch retailer but, in practice, there are significant barriers.
For many embedded network customers, going 'on-market' — to take advantage of a market contract and/or switch retailer — is a highly complex process. Some customers have told us they tried to switch, but couldn't find any retailers that would make contracts available.
The switching process also relies heavily on action being taken by the embedded network manager, and on specific metering arrangements. The customer's preferred electricity retailer must ask the embedded network manager to arrange for a National Meter Identifier (NMI) to be assigned to the customer’s 'child' meter (under the property's 'parent' meter). Once the embedded network manager has done this, the NMI standing data needs to be updated in the Market Transfer and Settlement Solution (MSATS). Until the NMI standing data is updated and an MSATS tariff code is applied, the customer is unlikely to get an offer from their preferred retailer.
If either the embedded network manager or the preferred retailer doesn't do its part properly, the customer may find themselves in a frustrating and unsatisfactory loop of uncompleted actions. The situation is even more complicated where a 'child' meter doesn't meet the standards necessary for the customer to go 'on-market' and requires an upgrade, at the customer’s cost. EWOV is in discussions with the Essential Services Commission and policy makers about the regulatory and policy settings needed to overcome these issues.
Help for customers: EWOV's Switching for customers in embedded networks fact sheet.
There are hundreds of embedded networks in Victoria, some of them quite small.
An embedded network is a private electricity network, which supplies homes or businesses within a specific area. It's a common arrangement in shopping centres, retirement villages, apartment buildings and caravan parks. The embedded network is connected to the wider electricity network. Usually, the embedded network entity buys electricity in bulk from this connection, and sells it on to customers inside the embedded network.
Sometimes customers don’t know they're in an embedded network. Many embedded networks use an agent to send bills and provide customer service. Some of the larger agents are WinConnect, Energy On, Active Utilities, ENSA, Energy Intelligence, Benergy, iGENO and Network Energy Services.
We advise customers who aren't sure whether they're in an embedded network to check with the body corporate, the operator of the caravan park or retirement village, or the company named on their electricity bill. Customers can also check the Essential Services Commission’s public register.
Already, over 35,000 more electricity customers have access to EWOV.
EWOV now has 92 embedded network scheme participants (completed applications).
These cover 327 embedded network sites across Victoria:
- 8 retirement villages/residential villages with 1,216 customers
- 251 apartment buildings/owners' corporation buildings with 28,791 customers
- 68 caravan parks with 5,040 customers.
As more completed applications to join EWOV are processed, the number of sites will increase. We anticipate that up to 100,000 Victorians may be affected.
More information on EWOV's website:
Embedded Network Case Study One
The experience of a residential customer
Case number: 2018/23061
Having moved into her apartment, Ms G found it was serviced by an embedded electricity network. Ms G was used to having choice of electricity retailer. She was dissatisfied with the offer from the embedded network manager (in this case an electricity retailer), which didn't include off-peak rates. She was seeking a bundled offer, or one with pay-on-time or other discounts. She didn't understand why this wasn't being offered and she couldn't work out how to switch to another retailer.
Frustrated by the situation she found herself in, Ms G complained to EWOV. We registered her complaint as an Assisted Referral and facilitated contact with her by a higher-level contact within the electricity retailer. Ms G returned to us dissatisfied that the retailer had said it couldn't alter the property's existing electricity plan. We opened an Investigation.
Responding to EWOV’s investigation, the retailer confirmed its advice to Ms G that it couldn't provide different tariffs (or a peak/off-peak split) and a discount, because the property was within an embedded network. It said that, if Ms G owned the property, she may be able to start the process to remove the property from the embedded network.
We reviewed the contract, contact notes, meter data, account reconciliation, billing and usage recorded for the property. We also reviewed the relevant laws and codes for embedded networks.
Ms G confirmed that she wished to transfer out of the embedded network. We checked with the Australian Energy Market Commission to confirm the process for getting an embedded network customer 'on-market'.
After considerable discussion with a metering co-ordinator, a new retailer and the embedded network manager, the meter at Ms G's property was assigned a National Metering Identifier (NMI). The NMI was then updated on the national distribution database (MSATS) to include the meter and network tariff details.
During this process Ms G realised she would receive two bills if she proceeded with a transfer to another retailer — one bill from the embedded network manager (network charges) and another from the new retailer (usage charges).
As a result, and even though she remained dissatisfied with the situation and her limited options, Ms G decided to stop the process and return to the embedded network.
Embedded Network Case Study Two
The experience of a business customer
Case number: 2018/13373
Mr P, a business customer, complained that the embedded network manager (an electricity retailer) wouldn't honour the rates he'd been offered.
We registered Mr P's complaint as an Assisted Referral and facilitated contact with him by a higher-level contact within the electricity retailer. Mr P returned to EWOV still dissatisfied with the retailer's response. We opened an Investigation.
We received and reviewed information about the contract, tariffs and pricing, and contacts between Mr P and the retailer. Responding to our Investigation, the retailer advised that the letter Mr P received from the developer/owners corporation was intended for residential occupants only. There was a different letter and contract offer for business occupants.
We assisted Mr P with information on the transfer process and his switching options. Essentially, he could move from the retailer's embedded network business plan to one of its 'on-market' business plans. As part of this process, the retailer would raise a request to have an NMI allocated to his business premises that he could use for a future switch. Or, he could accept an ‘on-market’ business plan with a different retailer, specifying that he wanted to exercise his 'power of choice' and transfer out of the embedded network. The new retailer would need to raise a 'business to business' request to the first retailer through MSATS to organise a contestable NMI, to bring the meter for Mr P's business back 'on-market' (an 'allocate NMI' service order).
The retailer confirmed this advice, adding that should Mr P switch, it would still need to bill him for supply charges, as it is the embedded network manager. His usage charges would be billed separately by the new retailer. To recognise the inconvenience caused by the contract confusion, it provided Mr P with $633 in customer service credits.
Mr P accepted this outcome. The complaint was closed.