Australia

Coast among top regions for energy bill complaints

Hundreds of Sunshine Coast residents raised concerns about energy bills last year, a new report has revealed.

According to the Energy and Water Ombudsman Queensland annual report, the Sunshine Coast was among the top 10 locations in Queensland in terms of the number of customers who contacted the office with concerns.

Issues with energy bills were the most common reason customers needed help, with billing disputes accounting for more than half of complaints from the region last year.

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Energy and Water Ombudsman Jane Pires said there were 7621 Queensland residents and small businesses who contacted her office.

“With 426 cases, the Sunshine Coast Regional Council area was among the top 10 locations in Queensland in terms of the number of customers who contacted us with a problem with their electricity, gas or water,” Ms Pires said.

“More than 60 per cent of complaints from Sunshine Coast consumers during this period were billing disputes, including concerns about high bills, estimated bills and billing errors.

“Credit-related issues like debt collection activity and payment difficulties were also problematic, as were issues with new and existing connections.”

Ms Pires said while there was an 11 per cent decrease in the ombudsman’s overall caseload in Queensland in 2019-2020, the number of complex complaints escalating to an investigation had increased by 16 per cent compared with the previous financial year.

The report found that $878,849 worth of monetary outcomes were made during that period, including 963 “goodwill gestures”, 401 billing adjustments and 102 debt waivers.

The majority, or 84 per cent, of cases involved problems with electricity, followed by eight per cent about gas and six per cent about water.

“Our statewide case data demonstrates energy and water providers managed routine matters more effectively over the past 12 months but when issues were complex – as for 1897 of our customers – we helped reach an outcome that was fair and reasonable,” she said.

“If consumers are worried about paying their bills, the best thing they can do is get in touch with their energy or water provider as soon as they can to find out about payment plans and extensions, and any rebates or concessions they may be entitled to.”

Residents can contact the Energy and Water Ombudsman at ewoq.com.au or 1800 662 837.

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