Under the Energy and Water Ombudsman Act 2006, all energy and water distributors and retailers who supply Queensland's small customers with electricity, gas or water (in south east Queensland) must become EWOQ scheme participants.
EWOQ aims to ensure that scheme participants operating in Queensland abide by relevant legislation, regulations and codes, and act in a manner which recognises the rights of all consumers. Some of the responsibilities of energy suppliers are listed below.
Final disconnection notices
Under the Electricity Industry Code, Gas Industry Code and Customer Water and Wastewater Code, energy and water retailers must include EWOQ contact details on final disconnection/restriction notices.
Example of EWOQ contact details on final disconnection/restriction notices:
If you are experiencing difficulty paying this account please contact us on [retailer's phone number] as we may be able to offer a payment plan that suits your needs. If your issue is unresolved after speaking to us, you can contact the Energy and Water Ombudsman Queensland on 1800 662 837; a free, fair and indepedent dispute resolution service who may be able to assist. If you have already paid this account, thank you and please disregard this advice.
Marketing Code of Conduct
Energy suppliers and their marketers are governed by a strict Marketing Code of Conduct which outlines how and when they can contact customers to promote their services.
Under the Code, marketers must:
- clearly identify who they are, the company they represent and why they're contacting a consumer
- except by prior appointment, only contact customers at reasonable times (between 9am-6pm for door-knocking or 9am-8pm for telephone contact on weekdays, and between 9am-5pm on Saturdays)
- tell customers about the 10-day cooling off period and explain any fees or charges, including cancellation/termination fees
- provide customers with the written terms and conditions before asking you to sign a contract
- provide customers with a disclosure statement after signing a contract
- provide timely, accurate, verifiable and truthful comparisons
- ensure information provided is truthful, easy to understand and relevant
- leave a customer's home or end the phone call immediately when asked.
- engage in misleading or deceptive conduct
- exert pressure, or otherwise harass or coerce customers, and
- contact those listed on the 'do not call' register.
Breaches of the Marketing Code of Conduct are treated very seriously and penalties of up to $100,000 for individuals and $500,000 for corporations apply.
Guaranteed Service Levels
Queensland's energy consumers are entitled to a rebate on their electricity bill if their energy supplier does not meet a satisfactory level of customer service. A number of electricity and gas customer service standards are listed below.
Reliable supply of electricity
Loss of hot water
Scheme participation fees
All scheme participants must pay a yearly participation fee at the start of each financial year (or when they become a scheme participant) and quarterly user-pays fees to cover the costs of EWOQ's function.
A fee is paid for each type of connection and retail service the entity provides. For example, if an entity is a gas and electricity retailer they must pay two participation fees, if an entity is an electricity retailer and distributor they must pay two participation fees, or if an entity is a gas retailer only they must pay one participation fee.
The user-pays fees are calculated on a forecast of the entity's anticipated performance costs for the quarter. This means entities pay in advance and the amount is adjusted at the end of each quarter to reflect the actual number of complaints received during the quarter. Scheme participants do not pay interest on the adjustments, whether there's an increase or decrease. Performance costs are defined as those costs incurred by EWOQ to perform its function of resolving disputes.
After receiving a new participation notification, EWOQ will advise the entity of the fee and estimated user-pays fees.
EWOQ is fully funded by participation and user-pays fees, therefore in accordance with Section 66(4) and 68(4) of the Energy and Water Ombudsman Act 2006 (the Act), invoices for participation and user-pays fees must be paid within 14 days of receipt. Section 71 of the Act provides that scheme participants must pay interest on late payments.