The Consumer Policy Research Centre’s Building Customer Trust Project

Sally Watts, Project Manager at the Consumer Policy Research Centre contributed this  article to our April issue of the On The Wire energy newsletter. Subscribe to On The Wire here.

The Consumer Policy Research Centre (formerly Consumer Utilities Advocacy Centre) is soon to release a guide on the principles and practices that build customer trust in the energy and water industries.

The guide is the result of a collaborative research project announced early last year. The Consumer Policy Research Centre recognised the need for an overarching framework for fairness to guide retailers in their dealings with customers. We also saw an opportunity for energy retailers and water companies to share practices that provide a better customer experience and build trust.

To facilitate this, we brought together Victorian energy and water retailers, community organisations and consumers to develop a set of evidence-based Customer Trust Principles. These are principles that, when put into practice, help ensure customers are treated fairly and have access to power and water. In turn, this fair treatment builds customer trust, benefiting customers and retailers alike.

The Consumer Policy Research Centre partnered with the top tier energy retailers nationally, AGL Energy, EnergyAustralia and Origin Energy, along with the three Victorian metropolitan water retailers, City West Water, South East Water and Yarra Valley Water. These leading retailers invited the Consumer Policy Research Centre project team to spend time in their businesses, interviewing staff and observing, first-hand, business operations, processes, policies and practices. The retailers also provided funding for the project.

To ensure the voice of the customer was heard, a consumer focus group was held. A project reference group with representatives from the Consumer Action Law Centre, Kildonan UnitingCare and the Victorian Council of Social Service also contributed a consumer perspective.

We looked at Australian and international reforms, initiatives and guidelines that support fair access to essential services, thereby building customer trust. Interviews with the Energy and Water Ombudsman (Victoria) and Ofgem in the UK, along with other industry stakeholder consultation, also informed the project.

All of this research and input has been distilled into a guide that sets out the Customer Trust Principles, illustrating them with practical examples to help guide retailers in their dealings with their customers. We will be releasing the guide mid-year.

The next phase of the project will focus on sustainably embedding the principles across industry. We want the principles to guide how Victorian energy and water retailers treat every one of their customers, driving positive change and lifting standards across the industry. In two workshops held earlier this year, around fifty industry, government and community representatives worked with us to plan how this might be achieved.

Over the coming months we look forward to sharing the details of the next phase and how organisations can get involved. Meanwhile, if you would like more information contact the Consumer Policy Research Centre on 03 9639 7600 or at

The Consumer Policy Research Centre (formerly Consumer Utilities Advocacy Centre) is dedicated to advancing the well-being of Victorian consumers. We work closely with government, industry stakeholders and community organisations to ensure our findings are translated into policy, programs and fair trading practices to benefit all Victorians.

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