FAQs

EWOV basics

What is EWOV?

The Energy and Water Ombudsman (Victoria) (EWOV) is a not-for-profit dispute resolution scheme that helps Victorian customers resolve complaints with their electricity, gas (including LPG) and water companies. We are free and independent, meaning we don’t act on anyone’s behalf. Our outcomes are fair to you and your company.

Watch our short video for more information.

What can I complain about?

Before you contact us, you must give your company a fair opportunity to resolve your problem. If you’ve tried but you can’t sort the problem out, we can help you and your company to reach a resolution.

You can complain about most energy and water issues you have with your company by contacting us by phone, using our online complaint form or in writing. However, we do not investigate government policy, energy or water prices, and commercial activities that lie outside our jurisdiction, such as solar installations.

You can read more on the Complaints we can and can't take section of our website.

Is EWOV a regulator or a government body?

EWOV is not an industry watchdog, regulator or government body. We cannot change government policy or the price of energy or water. We are a free and independent dispute resolution scheme.

What rules do companies follow?

In Victoria, the energy retailers and water companies (and their customers) must follow energy and water legislation, codes and guidelines set by the Essential Services Commission. You can read about customer and company rights and responsibilities on the Essential Services Commission’s website.

The Australian Energy Regulator regulates electricity and gas distributors and networks.

Getting connected

How do I get my electricity, gas or water connected?

Moving in

Getting electricity or gas connected at a property can take a number of days.

To connect your service, contact both your chosen energy retailer and the water company that services your area to set up an account at least two business days before you move in to your new home.  While you apply through the retailer to get your energy connected, the actual work is done by the local distributor.

For more information and a useful video, visit our getting connected and changing energy companies page.

New connections

First, contact your retailer to ask for the electricity, gas or water to be connected. The retailer must pass your request on to the distributor.

The distributor will then try to connect the property on the date agreed with you.

If no date has been agreed, and if safety and other requirements are met, the electricity distributor should connect within 10 business days of your request. A gas distributor should connect within 20 business days of your request.

For more information and a useful video, visit our getting connected and changing energy companies page.

Moving Out

Call your electricity, gas and water companies at least three business days before you move out. Be sure to give a forwarding address for your final bill to avoid potential debt collection.

If you live in a share house and the account is in your name, tell your company the name of the person who will be taking over the account.

For more information and a useful video, visit our getting connected and changing energy companies page.

How do I find the best energy deal?

Electricity and gas

Exercise your consumer choice and shop online for the best deal. The Victorian Government has an independent comparison website so you can easily compare all electricity and gas offers. No secret commissions. No hidden fees. It’s called Victorian Energy Compare.

Or if you’re happy with your energy company, call them to make sure you’re on its cheapest contract and have the best discounts. Prices can change quickly, so make it a habit to call your company every year to get the best deal.

You can find a list of all the electricity and gas companies in Victoria on our website.

Also, visit our getting connected and changing energy companies page for more information and a useful video.

Water

You can’t choose your water company. Contact your local water corporation to set up an account. If you’re not sure which water corporation’s area you live in, check using this interactive map.

Depending on the lease, as a tenant you may not need to pay water charges. Or you may only need to pay for the usage and sewage disposal charges. If you are unsure, ask your rental agent.

Bulk hot water

‘Bulk hot water’ is water that is centrally heated (usually by gas) and delivered to a number of customers in a multi-dwelling property, such as an apartment building or block of flats.

If you live in a property with bulk hot water, you must stay with the retailer providing that bulk hot water. A collective choice about changing retailer could be made by the Body Corporate or building management. If you use gas for cooking or heating, it could mean your gas bills come from two different gas retailers—one for your share of the bulk hot water and one for your cooking/heating.

What’s a market contract?

A market contract is where you enter into a contract with the electricity or gas company of your choice and agree with your signature or a voice phone recording.

What’s a standard contract?

A standard contract is one where you just arrange for an electricity or natural gas connection at your property on the retailer’s standard terms.

What’s a pay-on-time discount?

Discounts can sometimes be offered to encourage you to enter a new energy contract. Be careful to check how these discounts apply. They are usually only available when you pay your bill on time. For example, a 20% discount if you pay a quarterly electricity bill by the due date stated on the bill.

Also, discounts may only apply to the usage component of your bill (how much electricity or gas used at your property) rather than the total of your bill (which includes the fixed daily service to property charge). It is important to check this – so ask your company.

What's the difference between a retailer and a distributor?

Retailers sell and bill you for electricity and gas. They pay distributors to transport the electricity or gas to your property.

Distributors build and maintain the local networks of electricity poles and wires, gas pipes and other equipment to deliver electricity or gas to you. They're also responsible for reading your meter and sending retailers the meter data for billing.

Most water corporations in Victoria are both retailers and distributors—they send bills and maintain water networks.

Energy marketing

How do I stop door knockers?

Energy sales people can call you or visit your property. However, there are rules sales people must follow.

Sales people must be honest. They must not mislead you into thinking they’re from your current energy company, your energy distributor or the government. They must not pressure you to make a decision. They must wear a visible identification badge.

If you ask the sales person to leave your property, they must do so straight away.

You can stop sales people from visiting your property by having a Do Not Knock sticker clearly placed outside your front door. To get a Do Not Knock sticker or to register your property on the Do Not Knock Register, visit www.donotknock.org.au.

Our Energy Marketing fact sheet has further useful information.

What times can sales people visit me?

Sales people can only contact you at your door or by phone within certain hours only:

  • Monday to Friday: 9am—6pm (at your door)
  • Monday to Friday: 9am—8pm (by phone)
  • Saturday: 9am—5pm
  • Sunday and public holidays are not allowed.

Our Energy Marketing fact sheet has further useful information.

How do I stop telesales calls?

You can stop Australia-based sales people from calling you by registering your phone numbers on the Australian Communications and Media Authority’s Do Not Call Register – visit www.donotcall.gov.au or call 1300 792 958. 

I signed an energy contract but changed my mind

If you say “yes” to a sales person and enter into a new energy contract, you have 10 business days to change your mind. This cooling-off period lets you cancel the contract without penalty.

Our Energy Marketing fact sheet has further useful information.

Why am I getting ‘Occupier’ mail?

This is not junk mail – companies send bills and letters addressed to ‘The Occupier’ (or similar) when electricity, gas or water is being used, but they don’t know who is living at the property.

If you receive this type of letter, make sure you ring the company sending the letter as soon as possible.

Billing

My bill is wrong

If you think your bill is wrong you should contact your energy or water company to explain it.

All sorts of reasons could cause an electricity or gas or water bill to be higher than you expected:

  • The bill could include previous amounts that weren’t paid.
  • The price may have increased.
  • The previous bills could have been based on estimates of your usage, rather than actual meter reads. This causes a ‘catch-up’ bill. See the FAQ section below - What’s a catch-up bill?
  • You may have used more energy or water than you usually do. Perhaps because you’re spending more time at home, people are staying with you, you’re using a new appliance (such as an air conditioner) or you’re using appliances more often. For example, using a heater in winter more often than usual or having a faulty hot water system.

For more information about high and incorrect bills, visit our High bills and Billing mistakes issues pages.

Why is my bill estimated?

An estimated bill is sent when your energy or water company do not have a meter read upon which to bill you. The estimation will either be above or below your actual use. If it’s above your use, you are paying more than you should and this will be corrected when you get a bill based on an actual meter read.

If it’s below your use, you will get a catch-up bill, also known as a backbill, at a later date.

For more information, visit our Delayed and catch-up bills issues page and read - What’s a catch-up bill?

Why have my prices gone up?

Energy contracts usually allow a company to increase its prices during the contract term, after giving you written notice. It might be possible to exit the contract without paying an exit fee after being told about a price increase.

LPG pricing is not regulated. Generally speaking, prices are based on the volume and the international wholesale price.

What’s a catch-up bill?

Energy and water companies can send you a catch-up bill (also known as a backbill) but there are limits on how far back the bill can go. For electricity and gas, a company can only go back nine months, from the date you are told about the undercharging. You will be given equal time to pay the bill—so if the backbill covers six months, you must get six months to pay that backbill.

There are no limits to how far the company can go back if it's your fault that the catch up bill was needed (for example, access to the meter was blocked by a closed gate or dog).

There are different rules if you are a business using more than 40 megawatt hours of electricity a year or 1,000 gigajoules of gas.

Water companies can backbill you for up to 12 months. As with electricity and gas companies, water companies must also give you equal time to pay.

LPG companies can bill a residential customer back for up to nine months. There’s no limit on LPG backbills for business customers.

For more information, visit our Delayed and catch-up bills issues page.

What’s a service to property charge?

The electricity and gas service to property charge is a fee for accessing and maintaining an energy distributor's network. These fees are regulated by the Australian Energy Regulator and vary depending on where you live.

Water service charges are flat fees on each property for access to the water and sewerage systems. Service charges can also apply to vacant land not connected to the water system. In some cases, water companies don’t charge if the land isn’t connected to services and doesn’t have any buildings on it.

The owner (or landlord) of a residential property pays the water service charges — not the residential tenant.

All units or apartments must all pay a water service charge. If there’s only one shared meter, each separately occupied property has to pay its own water service charge.

Read our Charges on water bills fact sheets for more useful information.

What’s a tariff?

A tariff is the price you pay for each unit of electricity, gas or water used at your property. The tariff rate may increase after you have reached a certain amount of energy or water used at your property. For example, an electricity tariff rate might be 14 cents/kWh for the first 400 kWh used during the billing period and then increase to 17 cents/kWh for the electricity used above this volume.

Solar tariffs are different and are explained below – What’s a feed-in tariff?

Meters

How do I read my meter?

Reading the meter lets you check your energy or water use. You’ll need to locate the meter, match the unique meter number with what’s on your bill and then read the meter display.

Electricity smart meters record consumption in half hour blocks and you can read the meter by scrolling through the digital screen or register. Your total electricity usage, off peak consumption and, if relevant, the amount of solar power sent back to the grid are all listed here. Most smart meters have a sticker on them, explaining what each register measures.

If your electricity bill doesn’t show cumulative readings, you can still check your account by looking at the total electricity use on your smart meter, on the day it’s scheduled to be read. This date will be on your bill. Then take the last meter reading and deduct it from that number. The result should be about the same as the usage you’re being charged for on your bill.

Gas and water meters are generally still read manually and need to be accessible for meter readers. You can simply compare the reading on your bill will that shown on your meter.

Visit our Meters, poles, wires and pipes issue page for more information and a short video.

Why wasn’t my meter read?

For electricity, most people in Victoria now have smart meters that are generally capable of being read remotely through a communications network. This means that meter readers no longer have to visit properties for every reading, and that most meter readings are accurate. However, occasionally there are problems with parts of the data collected from smart meters, resulting in ‘substituted’ reads that are similar to ‘estimated’ meter reads.

For gas and water, meters are still read by meter readers who visit your property. Accordingly, it is important that you provide clear access to your meter so it can be read. If the meter is blocked, such as by a locked gate or a dog, a read may not be taken and your next bill will be estimated.

For more information, watch our short video

How often is my meter read?

Most electricity smart meters are capable of being read remotely through a communications network, so that meter readers no longer have to visit your property.

However, water and gas meters are still read by meter readers. Meter readers attempt to read gas meters every two months and water meters every three or four months, depending on where you live. However, legally, they only have to read meters once every 12 months. And remember, if you block access to the meter, for example by a locked gate or dog, then it won’t be read.

Visit our Meters, poles, wires and pipes issue page for more information and a short video.

Is my meter faulty?

You can ask to have a meter tested, but if it’s found to be operating correctly, you may have to pay for the test. In our experience, most tested meters are found to be operating correctly and within the Australian Standards.

We suggest you try to work out whether something other than a faulty meter is causing your high bills before you ask for a meter test.

Visit our Meters, poles, wires and pipes issue page for more information and a short video and see above – Why is my bill wrong?

Affordability

I can’t pay my bill

If you can’t pay a bill, call your energy or water company straight away.

It doesn’t matter whether it’s a one off, an ongoing problem or you just need more time to pay, your company must help you. They should start by giving you an extension or a payment plan to pay in amounts you can afford. There are several ways to do this:

  • Centrepay takes a regular amount from your fortnightly Centrelink payment before you receive it.
  • A payment card, like Easypay or Easyway, for regular payments at the post office.
  • Or, a direct debit, for a certain amount from your bank account at regular intervals.

You must pay the installments when due. Your company may also take into account any debt you have or might build up under the payment plan. Some companies offer incentives if you stick to the plan, such as payment matching. Contact your company immediately if you’re having trouble making a payment.

All electricity, gas and water companies have a special financial hardship team that can work with you to help manage your ongoing bills and usage.

Your company can also help by giving you:

  • Information on free financial counseling.
  • Advice on energy or water efficiency to help you understand what you’re using. They may also offer a free home energy audit.
  • Information about government grants, like the Utility Relief Grant.
  • Advice on government concessions.

There’s useful advice about managing your money at the National Debt Helpline.

Visit our Trouble paying a bill issue page for more information and a short video.

Can the government help with my bills?

Concessions

If you have a concession card, make sure you give all your details to your energy or water company to get all available government concessions. The name on the card must match the name of the account holder.

The Victorian Department of Health and Human Services offers a variety of concessions, subject to conditions, such as:

  • Annual Electricity Concession—17.5% discount on electricity bills all year round.
  • Winter Gas Concession—17.5% discount on gas bills for usage between 1 May and 31 October each year.
  • Life Support Concession—a quarterly rebate on electricity bills when using certain life support machines.
  • Medical Cooling Concession—a 17.5% discount on the electricity used between 1 November and 30 April. This is for eligible cardholders with specified medical conditions including multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, motor neurone disease, quadriplegia, scleroderma or other conditions.
  • Controlled Load Electricity Concession—13% reduction on the controlled load usage charges on all electricity bills.
  • Service to Property Charge Concession—reduces the supply charge for concession households that do not use much energy.
  • Electricity Transfer Fee Waiver Concession—covers the transfer fee charged to connect supply.
  • Non-Mains Energy Concession—an annual rebate for eligible cardholders who use LPG for domestic heating or cooking.
  • Water and Sewerage Concession—a 50% discount off water and sewerage charges up to an annual maximum amount.
  • Non-Mains Water Connection—helps cardholders with the costs of buying non-mains water for domestic usage, such as buying carted water for rainwater tanks.

Concessions are calculated based on the remaining account balance after any contract discounts or solar credits have been applied.

If you did not get your concession on your energy or water bills, then speak to your company as the concession can be backdated for up to 12 months.

Utility Relief Grant Scheme

If you’re having payment problems you may be able to get a Utility Relief Grant from the Victorian Government.

This is a once-off payment which will reduce your account debt. You can apply through your energy or water company, but the decision is made by the Department of Human Services' Concessions Unit. You can get only one grant for each fuel, every two years.

What’s a financial counsellor?

A financial counsellor is a qualified community worker who helps people facing money and debt problems.

Their help is free, but there may be a delay before getting an appointment. To find out about financial counsellors in your area, you can ask your energy or water company or use this directory on the Financial and Consumer Rights Council's website.

Why have I been disconnected?

Your energy supply can be cut off and your LPG deliveries can be stopped. Water isn't generally cut off, but restricted to a trickle.

A disconnection is usually for debt, but it can be for other reasons. If your disconnection is for debt then EWOV can arrange a same-day reconnection of your supply when you contact us. However, you’ll be expected to pay an ongoing amount that you can afford while we investigate your matter.

Your supply may be disconnected in error. For example, when it’s requested by a previous occupant, or where a mistake is made with the address. In these cases, reconnection is made quickly once the error is realised. It may also be disconnected in an emergency (e.g. a bushfire) or if it would endanger the health or safety of any person or the environment.

Visit our Energy disconnection and water restriction issue page for more information and a short video.

Can I get compensation for a disconnection?

You may be eligible for a payment if a company wrongfully disconnected your electricity or gas or restricted your water supply.

A ‘wrongful disconnection’ is where the retailer didn’t comply with the law and regulations in disconnecting your electricity or gas supply. In Victorian, energy retailers are required to pay residential customers whose supply was disconnected wrongfully $500 a day for each day (or part day) the customer was without power. In most cases, the amount is capped at $3,500. This is called a Wrongful Disconnection Payment.

There's no Wrongful Disconnection Payment for LPG, but there is a similar payment for water called the Water Guaranteed Service Level (GSL) payment. If your water corporation hasn't complied with all of the rules before taking legal action or restricting supply you may be eligible for a $300 GSL payment.

Visit our Energy disconnection and water restriction issue page for more information and a short video.

Can my power be disconnected if I’m on life support?

If you require electricity to power life support equipment then it is very important that you tell your energy company. It will then register your property as a ‘life support premises’ with the distributor so that you cannot be disconnected.

However, there may be occasions when an unexpected electricity outage happens in your area, such as due to a storm. It is therefore important that you make a back-up plan for this eventuality in consultation with your doctor, and tell your retailer and distributor about the plan. If an unexpected outage puts you in a life threatening situation, call 000 and request an ambulance.

If the distributor is planning an outage you will be given advance notice of at least four days.

Why have I been default listed?

If you don’t pay your energy or water bill, your account may be passed to a debt collection department, agency or credit reporting body.

But there are rules companies must follow for debt collection or when listing a default on a credit file. They outline how collectors must behave, when and how often they can contact you and the type of contact. For example, a debt collector can’t call you more than three times a week or on a national public holiday.

With credit reporting, the company must tell you if a default is about to be lodged on your file.

Our Debt collection and credit default listings issue page has lots more information on this topic and a short video.

How do I get a copy of my credit report?

The three credit reporting bodies in Australia are Equifax, Dun & Bradstreet and Experian.  You should contact one of these organisations to ask for your credit report. You’re entitled to a free copy of your credit report once a year, if you’ve been refused credit in the last 90 days, or if you’re asking for your file to be corrected.

Our Debt collection and credit default listings issue page has lots more information on this topic and a short video.

How do I fix my credit report?

If you have a complaint about debt collection or a default listing arising from an energy or water debt, we may be able to help correct your credit report if the listing was made incorrectly. But first, contact your energy or water company or their agent directly. Keep a record of who you spoke to and what they agreed to do and when. You should also keep copies of any letters, emails or text messages.

Our Debt collection and credit default listings issue page has lots more information on this topic and a short video.

How can I use less energy and water?

Using less electricity, gas and water will lower your bills.

If you’re finding it difficult to pay your bill and understand your energy or water use, your company can offer you a free energy or water audit. This might be done over the phone or, with your agreement, at your home.

Heating units, air conditioners, fridges, clothes dryers and hot water systems are home appliances that typically use the most energy. It’s therefore important to check these appliances are working properly and are being used efficiently.

You can find lots of energy saving tips on Sustainability Victoria’s website.

Outages and compensation

What’s a planned outage?

Sometimes, energy and water companies need to undertake planned works on their network (such as poles, wires, pipes, meters, transformers, substations, pits) to maintain a safe and reliable supply. However, they need to tell customers in writing about a planned supply outage, including details of when it will happen and how long it will last.

The following written notice to customers is required before the planned maintenance or works:

  • Electricity distributors - four business days notice.
  • Gas distributors - 10 business days notice.
  • Water companies - two business days notice.

Also, to protect the electricity grid, sometimes electricity distributors ‘load shed’. Load shedding means that customers are disconnected for a short period of time to reduce demand on the electricity grid. This helps prevent blackouts and supply outages. Load shedding usually happens on very hot days when the electricity grid is under pressure.

Visit our Outages, brownouts and power surges issue page for more information and a short video.

Can I get compensation for a power outage?

Under Guaranteed Service Levels (GSLs), electricity distributors must make payments for poor service, but those payments aren't intended as compensation.

At present, the GSL payments are: 

  • $100 where the customer experiences more than 20 hours of unplanned sustained (more than a minute) interruptions a year (or $150 for more than 30 hours or $300 for more than 60 hours)
  • $100 where a customer experiences more than 10 separate unplanned sustained interruptions a year (or $150 for more than 15 or $300 for more than 30)
  • $25 where a customer experiences more than 24 momentary (less than a minute) interruptions a year (or $35 for more than 36).

If you qualify, the GSL payment is made automatically—you don't have to apply for it—and usually shows up on your first bill of the year.

Where the power outage was outside the control of the distributor—such as due to a bushfire or storm—the electricity distributor may be exempt from paying a GSL.

If your damage or loss is more than the GSL amount, you can lodge a compensation claim with your local distributor. Your distributor will assess whether compensation is payable or not.

Visit our Outages, brownouts and power surges issue page for more information and a short video.

Can I get compensation for an electricity surge?

Low voltage (brownout) or high voltage (surge or spike) incidents are called voltage variations. Where there's a voltage variation—and you experience loss or damage as a result—you may be able to claim compensation from the electricity distributor.

The Voltage Variation Compensation Guideline covers physical damage to electrical equipment, but not any consequential loss. Compensation is on an 'old-for-old' basis, that is, current market value.

When we investigate complaints about damage and loss we ask customers to substantiate their claim and provide documentation to help us consider what’s 'fair and reasonable' in the particular circumstances.

If you’re a business customer, you have a responsibility to take reasonable precautions to minimise any losses at your business premises.

Visit our Outages, brownouts and power surges issue page for more information and a short video.

Can I get compensation for gas and water supply problems?

Guaranteed Service Levels (GSLs) also apply for gas and for most water companies. There are no GSLs for LPG.

If a residential gas customer experiences more than six unplanned interruptions in 12 months, due to faults in the distribution system, they may be eligible for a payment for each subsequent event in that year. If the gas supply isn't restored within 12 hours, the customer is to be paid a GSL—provided the cause is not beyond the gas distributor's control.

If your damage is more than the GSL amount, you can lodge a compensation claim with your local distributor. Your distributor will assess whether compensation is payable or not.

Most water corporations have GSLs. You should ask your corporation about these.

Visit our Outages, brownouts and power surges issue page for more information and a short video.

Solar power

How do I switch to solar?

Firstly, you should fully research the costs and benefits of getting solar and find the right solar installation company for your needs. Consumer Affairs Victoria has some useful information to help you make the best choice.

Once you have agreed to a solar panel installation and have signed a contract with your energy retailer you are locked in. So it is important to get informed and make the right choice. Make sure that you compare products and quotes offered by different solar installation companies and confirm that they are Clean Energy Council accredited.

Ask yourself the following questions when considering switching to solar:

  • How much electricity are your solar panels likely to produce?
  • How big does your solar panel system need to be to make savings on your bill?
  • How much electricity can you feed back into the grid?
  • Will your electricity contract, tariff or service to property charge change if you install solar panels? 

For more information, you can read our Solar fact sheet and watch a short video

My solar bill is wrong

EWOV can investigate the accuracy of your solar bill, check that solar credits are correctly applied to your account and confirm that you’re on the correct feed-in tariff rate. Our investigation into a solar bill is a process of determining whether your company has contributed to any billing issue. Our aim is to confirm you have been billed accurately with the meter correctly recording your electricity use and feed-in.

EWOV usually can’t investigate complaints about solar installation companies. You should contact Consumer Affairs Victoria on 1300 558 181 or the Clean Energy Council instead. However, if the solar installer is also your electricity retailer, then in some circumstances we may be able to investigate.

For more information, you can read our Solar fact sheet and watch a short video

What’s a feed-in tariff?

A solar feed-in tariff refers to the payback you receive per kWh fed back into the electricity grid. Talk to your retailer about which feed-in tariff is available to you.

The General Feed-in Tariff (GFiT) is available to new customers from 1 January 2013. The minimum rate is 5.0 cents per kWh until 30 June 2017, but some retailers may offer higher rates. From 1 July 2017, the minimum rate is 11.3 cents per kWh.

The Standard Feed-in Tariff and Transitional Feed-in Tariff both ended on 31 December 2016 and these customers were moved onto the General Feed-in Tariff.

The Premium Feed-in Tariff closed to new applicants on 29 December 2011 and the scheme ends on 1 November 2024. You will lose the Premium Feed-in Tariff if you add new solar panels or move premises.

For more information, you can read our Solar fact sheet and watch a short video

Bulk hot water

What is bulk hot water?

‘Bulk hot water’ is water that is centrally heated (usually by gas) and delivered to a number of customers in a multi-dwelling property, such as an apartment building or block of flats.

For more information, you can read our Bulk hot water fact sheet.

Can I change bulk hot water retailer?

If you live in a building with bulk hot water, you must stay with the retailer providing that bulk hot water. However, a collective choice about changing retailer could be made by the Body Corporate or building management.

Buildings using bulk hot water are billed on the gas meter used to heat the water. If you also use gas for cooking or heating, it could mean your gas bills come from two different retailers — one for your share of the bulk hot water and one for your cooking/heating.

For more information, you can read our Bulk hot water fact sheet.