July to September 2019
Insights from EWOV cases on Best Offer and Victorian Default Offer
In this issue of Res Online, we present some first quarter insights on how two of the reforms introduced recently by the Essential Services Commission are affecting customers. These reforms — Best Offer notification and the Victorian Default Offer (VDO) — are intended to help energy customers find better deals. While it's early days, we've already received numerous cases in which the customer raises concerns about one or both of these reforms. Largely these cases highlight customer confusion, most commonly about how and when they'll be notified about the new entitlements, and whether they're eligible for them.
For reforms to be effective, customers need to be told about (and receive) entitlements
Throughout 2019 we've seen some really significant regulatory developments for customers by way of the Payment Difficulty Framework (from January 2019) and now the Best Offer and VDO reforms (from July 2019). For these reforms to do what they're intended to do, customers must know about their entitlements and actually receive them. Our case experience points to the need for retailers to do a better job of making sure customers are receiving the necessary information to enable them to benefit.
Cases up quarter on quarter, but down on same time last year
While lower than cases for the July to September 2018 quarter, July to September 2019 cases to EWOV were up on cases for the April to June 2019 quarter — up 14% overall, up 6% in electricity, up 34% in gas and up 15% in water. Billing continues to be the top issue and was the source of the highest increases. In electricity and gas, seasonal factors may have had an impact — for example colder conditions in winter can translate into unexpectedly high bills for some customers. In water, the inclusion on bills of the annual parks charge may have come as a surprise to some customers. These are both factors which can lead customers, who are trying to keep on top of top of costs, to query their bills.
Other case studies in this issue
- Large back bill after inaction on estimated meter readings (billing)
- Responsibility for high arrears on closed account (credit)
- On septic, but charged for sewer main connection (provision)
- Solar benefits delayed by paperwork errors (solar)
Energy and Water Ombudsman (Victoria)