Media Release: Annual Report 2017-18

Electricity meter changes cause problems and complaints

29 October 2018

The failure of some retailers to adapt to a new electricity metering regime inconvenienced consumers and caused a significant increase in cases received by the Energy & Water Ombudsman SA last financial year.

Total cases received rose 17% to 10,325, after four successive years of falls.

Energy & Water Ombudsman Sandy Canale says the increase was primarily linked to the introduction of “metering contestability”, which saw retailers take over responsibility for new and replacement meters from distributors.

The change took effect on 1 December 2017 and 704 metering contestability-related cases were received in the first seven months, contributing to a 22% increase in total cases for the second half of the financial year.

“The metering change was known and planned for, but the challenge – and frustration, it has to be said – lay in delivery of what was promised,” Mr Canale says in the Energy & Water Ombudsman SA Annual Report for 2017-18.

“By January 2018, it was already apparent that some Members were unprepared to meet the demands and service requests of customers and as a result we have seen an increase in case volumes in this Office for the first time since 2012-13.”

Mr Canale says the inability of some retailers to meet demand had affected how all retailers were viewed by consumers.

“Difficulties in meeting these requirements meant significant and unnecessary hardships for many, especially for those planning to move into new homes and business locations who found themselves blindsided and without connections for months,” he says.

“Some customers also found themselves unable to move into new homes, with the attendant financial costs that occur in those situations.”

About 1.1 million electricity meters are installed in South Australia, with a minimum of 53,000 needing to be installed or replaced each year.

Electricity issues made up 81% of all cases received by the Ombudsman’s Office during the year (up 9%), gas issues 14% (down 6%), and water issues 5% (down 2%).

As in previous years, the main cause of complaints was billing (4,016 cases), followed by service provision (1,369) and credit management (1,086). However, there was a 25% decrease in credit management and financial hardship cases during the year, including disconnections.

Supply quality cases fell 50% compared with the previous year, but mainly due to a correction. The 2016-17 figures were inflated by a range of cases about that year’s state-wide blackouts.

The Energy & Water Ombudsman SA was established following the privatisation of South Australia’s electricity industry in 1999. A licence condition was imposed on all providers to participate in an independent scheme to ensure fair practice and effective dispute resolution.

The scheme’s members include all electricity and gas distribution, transmission and retail entities and water and sewerage service providers. In 2017-18 there were 29 electricity members, 10 gas members and eight water members.

MEDIA NOTE: Since September the metering situation has improved with three of the larger retailers entering into performance agreements with the SA Government setting time frames for meter provision performance and penalties for noncompliance. The Australian Energy Market Commission has also proposed rule changes that will provide greater certainty around metering provision.

Download the 2017-18 Annual Report

Click here to view all past Energy & Water Ombudsman SA annual reports.