Our process

Our process

Consumers wishing to make a complaint about their energy or water supply should follow the following steps:

  • Step 1: Contact your supplier
  • Step 2: Contact us, if necessary
  • Step 3: Seek further action, if necessary

Where matters are raised with us, we record and handle them as part of a process with up to nine stages, depending on the level of action required. Some cases escalate through these stages over time. The stages are:

  • Enquiry
  • Refer to Customer Service
  • Consultation
  • Refer to Higher Level
  • Conciliation
  • Investigation
  • Review
  • Determination
  • Explanation of Resolution


Enquiry

An Enquiry is an issue that is recorded on our system, but no further action is taken, and no complaint is raised by our office. We will note details of your contact as an Enquiry if you contact us:

  • seeking information
  • to provide feedback to a supplier without wishing to raise a complaint
  • to make a general industry complaint, not related to a supplier
  • for advice, or to clarify your rights, before contacting the supplier to make a complaint
  • about a matter that is outside of our jurisdiction
  • about a complaint which you have not yet raised with the supplier (we will refer you back to the supplier, and advise that you should give them the opportunity to resolve the matter first before we are able to offer further assistance)

Refer to Customer Service

A Refer to Customer Service (RCS) case is an issue created in our system where you contact us about a matter which you have not raised with your supplier in the first instance.

We will normally refer you back to the supplier and advise that you should give them the opportunity to resolve the matter before we are able to offer further assistance.

  • You must raise your complaint directly with your supplier before we can raise a complaint. If you have not yet spoken with your supplier we may ask you to do so.
  • We charge suppliers a fee for each complaint raised against them. It would not be fair to charge suppliers a fee to resolve a complaint that the consumer has not given them the opportunity to resolve directly.
  • If you raise an issue that is outside of our jurisdiction we will do our best to direct you to an organisation that can assist you.

Consultation

A complaint is classified as a Consultation if you have had your energy disconnected or your water restricted, or there has been a threat of such action within the next two days. A Consultation also exists if you have moved into or are building a new home and are waiting for connection.

In such cases, the supplier may reconnect your supply, put your account on hold until the case is resolved, and offer a hardship plan if you are in financial hardship and entitled to a plan. There is also an expectation that you will offer to make a payment or at least commit to a suitable payment plan.

The disconnection or restriction (or threats to disconnect or restrict) usually happens because your supplier believes that you have unpaid amounts on your account. In this instance, you will need to:

  • Work out a payment plan that will be suitable for you. Remember that you will need to work out a way to pay the outstanding amounts as well as any future bills.
  • Your provider is also required to offer a hardship program if you are in financial hardship.

What our office will do:

  • Refer the details of your complaint and what you are seeking to resolve the issue to your supplier.
  • Provide you with access to a higher-level representative with the supplier and ask them to contact you urgently to address the connection or restriction issue.
  • Allow 15 business days after reconnection for you and the supplier to work together to resolve any underlying issues.
  • Independently review the resolution if you advise us that you are not satisfied with it.

What the supplier must do:

  • Contact you urgently and arrange same day reconnection, where applicable.
  • Put your account on hold until the case is resolved. This includes suspending any reminder notices, follow up actions and credit or collection activity.
  • Work with you over the 15 business after reconnection to resolve any underlying issues.

What you must do:

  • Provide us with all relevant details of your complaint.
  • Speak to the supplier when they contact you (including returning any missed calls and responding to their emails).
  • Offer to make a payment or at least commit to a suitable payment plan.
  • Speak to a financial counsellor if you are experiencing financial hardship.
  • Advise us if the dispute is not resolved at the end of the 20 business days.

Refer to Higher Level

A Refer to Higher Level case (RHL) is a complaint that is recorded on our system, and passed through to a higher level at the supplier with the request for them to contact you and work with you to resolve the dispute.

The supplier will often send you a closure letter or email outlining the resolution.

They will provide us with a case closure response confirming actions they have taken, their offer of resolution and your response.

We will review the case closure response and email you or write to you to advise that the case has been closed. If you are not satisfied with the resolution or believe the issue has not been resolved, you will need to contact us to review the outcome.

We are not actively involved in the process of resolution at RHL level and will not contact you to speak about the outcome.

What our office will do:

  • Refer the details of your complaint and what you are seeking to resolve the issue to your supplier.
  • Provide you with access to a higher-level representative at the supplier.
  • Allow 20 business days for you and the supplier to work together and to reach a resolution.
  • Independently review the resolution if you advise us that you are dissatisfied with it.

What the supplier must do:

  • Put your account on hold until the case is resolved (meaning suspension of any reminder notices, follow up action, credit or collection activity).
  • Contact you within 2 full business days of the complaint being raised with our office.
  • Work with you over the next 20 business days to resolve the dispute.
  • Ensure your supply is not disconnected or restricted while your complaint remains an open RHL.

What you must do:

  • Provide our office with all relevant details of your complaint.
  • Speak to the supplier when they contact you (including returning any missed calls, and responding to their emails).
  • Pay any amounts that are not in dispute.
  • Advise us if the dispute is not resolved at the end of the 20 business days.

Conciliation

A complaint becomes a Conciliation case if it has not been resolved during the RHL process or you are dissatisfied with the supplier’s response and we consider the best option is to conciliate the dispute between you and the supplier.

We will:

  • Review any information from you regarding your dissatisfaction
  • Review the initial complaint and any resolution provided by the supplier, to the original RHL case.
  • Ask you further questions or for additional information or documentation regarding the complaint.
  • Ask a series of questions of the supplier to gain additional information.
  • Provide you with contact details of your case manager and to outline the process.
  • Work with you and the supplier to resolve the dispute.

If you are dissatisfied with the outcome of a Conciliation it is possible to seek a Review (see below).

What our office will do:

  • Review any information from you regarding your dissatisfaction with a resolution from the supplier at RHL case level.
  • Review the initial complaint, and review any resolution provided by the supplier, to the original RHL case.
  • Ask you further questions or for additional information or documentation regarding the complaint.
  • Ask a series of questions of the supplier to gain additional information.
  • Contact you (via phone or email) to provide you with contact details of your case manager and to outline the process.
  • Work with you and the supplier to resolve the dispute.

What the supplier must do:

  • Respond to our questions or request for information within five business days.
  • Continue to work directly with you to try and resolve the dispute.
  • Attempt to reach a resolution within 15 business days.

What you must do:

  • Advise our office promptly if you remain dissatisfied with a resolution provided by the supplier at RHL case level.
  • Disclose all relevant information regarding the complaint.
  • Respond to our questions or request for information within five business days.
  • Continue to work directly with the supplier as required to try and resolve the dispute.
  • Continue to pay any undisputed amounts.

Investigation

Where a case has been identified as a more complex matter involving several issues, remains unresolved or is unlikely to be resolved within the Conciliation case time frame, we may decide to investigate independently.

An Investigation may take eight weeks or more, depending on the complexity of the issue. We will manage the dispute and there will be no further direct contact between you and the supplier regarding your complaint.

After the Investigation we provide a detailed written report and summary of our conclusions. The case will then be closed. However, if you are dissatisfied with the outcome it is possible to seek a Review (see below).

What our office will do:

  • Review the details of the initial complaint.
  • Review all information provided by the supplier (including prior offers of resolution) and request additional information or data.
  • Ask additional questions of the supplier.
  • Review all information provided by you (including any dissatisfaction with prior resolutions).
  • Ask additional questions or request additional information from you.

What the supplier must do:

  • Carry out any additional action that we request to assist in resolving the case.
  • Provide additional information or data requested by our office within 10 business days.
  • Respond to questions asked by our office within 10 business days.

What you must do:

  • Stop any further contact with the supplier and continue to pay any undisputed amounts.
  • Disclose all relevant information regarding the complaint.
  • Respond to any questions or provide information we have requested within 10 business days.

Review

If you are dissatisfied with the outcome of a Conciliation and have new and relevant information, you may write to us within 30 days to request a Review. We will consider the reasons for your dissatisfaction and what you are seeking. The case may proceed to Investigation if the outcome does not appear fair and reasonable.

You may also seek a Review if you are dissatisfied following the closure of an Investigation. You must advise us in writing within 30 days. The Ombudsman will appoint a staff member not previously involved with the case to independently review it. A Review will be limited to the matters disputed by you in writing.

Determination

Where necessary, the Ombudsman has the power to make a determination on the case that is automatically binding on the supplier if you accept the determination.

If you do not accept the determination, the supplier is released from the terms of the determination and you are free to pursue remedies in another forum including legal proceedings.

We can play no further role in the case once a Determination is made.

Explanation of Resolution

A case may be classified as an Explanation of Resolution where it has been investigated and you returned to us for further information, advice or assistance about an outcome that we considered fair and reasonable.

We will provide you with a verbal and written explanation and any relevant information on why we considered the outcome fair and reasonable.