AGL and Origin Energy Receive The Most Energy Bill Complaints in NSW

Energy Water Ombusdman NSW Annual Report Cover Page 2010-2011In the 2010-2011 financial year the NSW Energy & Water Ombudsman resolved a whopping 17,559 complaints about energy and water bills in NSW.

This was a rise of 17% over the previous year. Two areas which saw a big rise in complaints were marketing and billing.

Confusing contracts and pushy marketing

A growing number of customers reported that they had experienced misleading or pressure marketing or had their accounts transferred without consent. Often this occurred when a non-account holder was approached by a marketer or when the marketer did not make it clear to the customer that they were agreeing to a contract.

- EWON Media Release 16 November 2011

This doesn't surprise me at all. The entire 'energy industry' is stacked full of misinformation and pushy marketing.

In fact, I think this is the number one problem with implementing energy efficiency.

It also adds some weight to my very boring suggestion to go and read your electricity contract.

Bills that just keep going up

Affordability issues also contributed to the increase in complaints. “Customers are expressing concern and anxiety about paying their bills, particularly in the light of political and media debate about further price increases.”

- EWON Media Release 16 November 2011

It also shouldn't come as much of a surprise that many complaints arose from unexpectedly high electricity bills.

Receiving a very high energy bill can be quite distressing. The gut instinct for most people is to complain to their supplier.

From my own experience, I have not come across many errors on bills. In the vast majority of cases unusually high electricity bills can be explained by actual increases in energy consumption (ie. it's usually not a billing issue).

See my related post: Top 5 Causes of a High Electricity Bill

The Ombudsman's report does however note several problems that are the fault of the energy retailers. Here are some examples:

  • Provider not applying the contract discount to all the tariffs on your bill
  • Provider charging you multiple times for meter readings (gas bills)
  • Provider not reporting all data on your energy bills (eg. if you have two meters they might only list data from one meter)

AGL and Origin Energy lead the way for most complaints

There is no doubt the increase in complaints against these two companies would be driven by the fact they are doing their best to 'muscle in' to NSW. AGL and Origin were originally retailers in Victoria but are also vying for business in NSW (something they have been doing for several years now).

The deregulation of the industry and the more recent sale of the energy retailers in NSW has certainly knocked competition up a notch (read: increased the number of shonky marketing tactics).

Complaints by Energy Retailer AGL Origin Energy

Number of complaints by Energy Retailer (source: EWON Annual Report 2010-2011) 

The Ombudsman's annual report has thrown up a few particularly interesting issues. Apart from those discussed above, I would like to talk more about how you can compare your energy bill against the very best deals being offered.

- Ryan McCarthy

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