Still too many Victorians choosing between heat or eat – response to EWOV annual report: Consumer Action

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Consumer Action Law Centre welcomes the significant drop in complaints to the Energy and Water Ombudsman (EWOV), but says there are still too many Victorians struggling with utilities.

“It’s welcome that cases at EWOV have dropped by 40%—it shows that energy and water businesses have made improvements to customer service and dispute resolution.

“However, our casework continues to show that many Victorians are struggling with issues such as energy disconnection and high utility costs. Recently, we’ve assisted consumers who have been bankrupted over energy debt,” says Gerard Brody, CEO of Consumer Action.

EWOV’s annual report similarly labelled affordability as a major concern, with energy disconnection/water restriction, and debt collection, topping the complaint list.

Consumer Action’s recent ‘Heat or Eat’ report recommends that:

  • the decision to disconnect power be taken away from retailers and given to an independent panel or arbiter
  • a home energy audit plan be introduced for low income households
  • a cap be introduced for the amount utility retailers can request from a person receiving social security payments

The report also highlights the case studies of Victorians who’ve been impacted by their power being disconnected. In one story, Emira* recalls being chased by an energy company while trying to escape a domestic violence situation.

She says energy retailers can make it easier for people in hardship by being more realistic, asking retailers “not to demand so much money – make it a reasonable amount for people… $100 a week, that’s a lot of money. I don’t know anyone on Centrelink who can cough up [that much] for their bills.”

Media Contact: Jonathan Brown, 0413 299 567, media@consumeraction.org.au

*name changed for privacy reasons

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