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27 January 2018 Posted by 


Vulnerable comsumers face disconnection
THE number of residents in Western Sydney experiencing bill shock is on the rise.

Figures released by the Energy and Water Ombudsman show the number of complaints to the energy watchdog from consumers in the Hawkesbury, Wollondilly, Blue Mountains and Central Coast areas had increased by six per cent in 2016/17.

Although the NSW Ombudsman annual report recorded a fall in complaints from residents in Blacktown, Macarthur, Fairfield, Liverpool, Parramatta and Penrith, the number of complaints was trending upwards toward the end of the financial year.

Energy and Water Ombudsman, Janine Young, said 25 per cent of the complaints from residents in the region related to affordability.

Across NSW, most complaints received were about electricity (74 per cent), 23 per cent were about gas, and the remaining three per cent related to water – revealing families continued to feel stretched.

“Affordability issues, payment difficulties, high bills, increasing debt and disconnection of supply have become the norm for NSW consumers experiencing financial vulnerability,” Ms Young said.

The Ombudsman’s report follows the release of a preliminary report on energy prices by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission which showed “serious problems with affordability for consumers and businesses”.

The competition watchdog’s report said price increases over the past 10 years had put consumers under “unacceptable pressure”.

Chairman Rod Simms said power prices had increased by 63 per cent on top of inflation since 2007/08, and cited network costs as the main cause for higher customer bills in NSW.

Ms Young warned the array of energy offers available may not be the solution to the growing affordability issue.

“Customers on low or fixed incomes in particular continue to tell us they were not able to take advantage of discounted offers because of compulsory pay-on-time or direct debit conditions,” she said. “It is promising to see that retailers are now starting to address this.”

The Federal Government’s recent national energy guarantee is aimed at delivering more affordable and reliable power to homes and businesses by pushing energy retailers to enter into guarantees on emissions.

Advocacy group One Big Switch has recorded an intensive period of energy switching after more than 190,000 Australians joined its campaign to switch providers and receive discounted offers.

Among them was Graeme Woods who told ACCESS he constantly worried about the cost of his energy bill.

The northern suburbs resident said he was paying almost $200 more than the same time last year.

After looking to switch providers, Mr Woods’ electricity provider matched the rival company’s discount offer which helped him save 14 per cent.

“I’m working longer hours in my gardening business so I’m not starved,” he said.



Michael Walls
0407 783 413

Western Sydney Business Access (WSBA) covers the business and community issues of the Greater Western Sydney region of Australia. WSBA is the popular media source for connecting with the pulse of the region and tapping into it's vast opportunities and networks.