Your Friendly Neighbourhood Ombudsman
Most people don’t think about their electricity, gas or water provider until something goes wrong.
Perhaps a bill is unusually high, or you’ve run into some financial difficulty and are struggling to pay, or you’ve been disconnected and you don’t know why.
At these moments, sometimes a call to your energy provider is enough to extinguish any misunderstanding or concern. But often, resolving our issue can be difficult, and the provider doesn’t deliver the help we need.
Don’t worry, you are not alone. Victoria’s Energy and Water Ombudsman (EWOV) received over 32,000 complaints in 2017. This year, increasing energy prices have been made worse by one of Victoria’s coldest winters in decades.
The EWOV has been assisting with complaints regarding energy and water providers since 1995, and it does so for free, regardless of whether you are a customer of a particular provider or not.
As of July 1st 2018, the EWOV has expanded its mandate to include complaints regarding embedded networks, which includes residential parks, retirement villages, shopping centres, and some apartment complexes.
Lead by Ombudsman Cynthia Gebert, the EWOV resolves disputes on the individual level, between customer and provider. However when you compile these disputes, the EWOV can go beyond the individual and identify systemic issues, using its public profile to propose policy reform and advocate for fairer and more effective energy and water infrastructure.
If the Ombudsman is unable to mediate a solution between you and your provider, they have the power to make a decision, which if the customer accepts, must be complied with by the company. Most electricity, gas and water companies are legally required to participate in the process.
Billing issues make up close to half of the complaints that are made, and while the Ombudsman can’t take complaints about the general price of a service, they can ensure that you have been billed fairly and accurately.
If you have any queries or concerns, or you think someone should investigate whether you’ve been billed fairly and accurately, you can get in touch with the Ombudsman at 1 800 500 549.
Alternatively, call Flemington & Kensington Community Legal Centre at 03 9376 4355 to arrange an appointment.
By Finbar Piper, on behalf of the Flemington Kensington Community Legal Centre
(Note: Statistics drawn from: https://www.ewov.com.au/reports/res-online/201802)