Complaints to the state’s Energy and Water Ombudsman from the Hunter residents rose 14 per cent last financial year, higher than the overall state increase of 12 per cent.
The ombudsman’s annual report released on Monday showed billing complaints in the region rose 18 per cent in 2017/2018.
Billing issues, which include high and estimated bills, billing errors and problems with opening and closing accounts, were present in 60 per cent of all complaints.
The report also shows a 12 per cent increase in complaints related to customer service, including poor service, failure to respond, incorrect advice or information, and failure to consult or inform customers. These issues are present in 48 per cent of complaints in the Hunter.
“Customer service is often an underlying factor for people contacting ombudsman, but one that can be largely avoided if providers work constructively with consumers in the first instance,” Energy & Water Ombudsman NSW Janine Young said.
Complaints related to energy affordability, including payment difficulties, debt collection, credit default listings and disconnections, increased by 30 per cent in the Hunter, and were present in 21 per cent of all complaints during the period.
“More work is needed to address affordability, including early identification of customers needing support, and tailored approaches,” Ms Young said.
Electricity accounted for 84 per cent of complaints in 2017/2018, an increase of 20 per cent from 2016/2017.
Gas complaints fell by 24 per cent and accounted for 10 per cent of all complaints in the Hunter, while water complaints increased by 36 per cent to make up six percent of all complaints from this region.
“The theme of our Annual Report this year is ‘Strengthening consumer protections,” Ms Young said.
“We focus on ensuring all energy customers receive equitable access to free, fair and independent dispute resolution services.”