Media Release: Annual Report 2022-23

Energy complaints rise in line with costs and a return to work

Complaints to South Australia’s Energy and Water Ombudsman rose by 16% in 2022-23, the first full financial year since the disruptions caused by Covid-19.

However, complaint levels were still below those for 2019-20, the last year before the start of the pandemic.

Of particular concern was a 26% increase in billing complaints to 3939 – the highest total since 2014-15.

Writing in the EWOSA annual report released today, the Ombudsman, Mr Sandy Canale, notes that there is “still much work to be done” to assist struggling consumers.

“While the financial and economic impact of Covid-19 has lessened, some of the financial supports, such as a moratorium on disconnections, have ended,” he says.

“Together with increased debt in many households, mortgage/rent stress, and cost-of-living increases over the past 12 months, this means that financial pressures are significant and pervasive across the community.”

Complaints fell at the height of Covid-19 – by 19% in 2020-21 and 22% the following year – but have risen again as people return to the workplace and businesses resume full operations.

Rising prices are also having an impact. My team reported a 25% jump in enquiries in July 2023, as the first bills arrived after declaration of a steep increase.

Mr Canale says many people were shocked by the sudden increase in power bills and had called his office to ask whether they were legitimate and what they can do to lessen the burden.

He also urged consumers to shop around for a better deal. “There are quite significant variations in prices, so it’s worth the effort to make some enquiries with your retailer,’’ he says.

EWOSA received 7848 cases during the year; 84% related to electricity enquiries or complaints, 11% to gas and the remainder to water. Of these, 89% were resolved within 30 days and 97% within 60 days.

As in previous years, the majority of complaints related to billing (64%), followed by provision issues (12%) and credit (6%).

Issues related to payment difficulty increased by 22%, but the volume of these complaints remains relatively low compared to previous years.

Mr Canale said it was clear the nature of disputes between consumers and providers was changing as energy and water markets changed – providing both challenges and opportunities.

“We continue to work with Energy and Water Ombudsman Schemes interstate to ensure that customer protections are maintained as the nature and types of services evolve." he says.

Download the 2022-23 Annual Report