It’s been revealed that energy bill disputes have skyrocketed on the Gold Coast over the last year.
According to new data from the Energy and Water Ombudsman Queensland last financial year, billing disputes accounted for more than half of complaints from the Gold Coast region.
In the 2019-2020 report, there were 7,621 Queensland residents and small businesses who sought help from the Energy and Water Ombudsman (EWOQ) office.
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Ombudsman Jane Pires says almost 1,000 came from the Gold Coast alone.
“With 963 cases, City of Gold Council was second only to Brisbane in terms of the total number of customers across Queensland who contacted us about a problem with their electricity, gas or water retailer or distributor last year,” Ms Pires said.
“More than half of complaints from Gold Coast residents during this period were billing disputes, including concerns about high bills, estimated bills and billing errors, including an aged pensioner who fought for nine months to have an electricity rebate reapplied to her power bill after moving house.
“Credit-related disputes were also an issue for about 150 Gold Coast locals with debt collection activity, payment difficulties and disconnection the major concerns,” she said.
While the EWOQ’s overall caseload in Queensland actually decreased by 11 percent over the last financial year, Ms Pires says the number of complex compaints that resulted in an investigation had increased by 16 percent compared to the previous financial year.
“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 for both industry and the consumer,” she said.
“We negotiated $878,849 worth of monetary outcomes for customers during 2019-2020, including 963 goodwill gestures, 401 billing adjustments and 102 debt waivers, with 84 per cent of the cases we closed problems with electricity, followed by eight per cent about gas and six per cent about water.”
The EWOQ says they’re prepared to play and increasing role over the next few years as a result of the coronavirus crisis, but says they’ve been pleased to see government and industry act quickly to introduce addition protections and measures to ease pressure on consumers.
“As the economic effects of the pandemic continue to impact the lives and livelihoods of consumers, we expect our service will play an ever-increasing role in supporting Queenslanders needing help with hardship support, rebates and concessions – many for the first time,” 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.
“If they’re not happy with the outcome or need further support, contact us – the Energy and Water Ombudsman Queensland – at www.ewoq.com.au or call 1800 662 837 for help.”