Source: MIL-OSI Submissions
Source: Utilities Disputes
Free and independent complaints service, Utilities Disputes, had a 10% increase in complaints and a 30% increase in total cases last year.
The Annual Report shows Utilities Disputes had 7,227 cases last year – mostly about electricity or gas (6,520), followed by broadband installation on shared property (565), and water (27).
“2018-2019 was another productive year for Utilities Disputes, our 18th year resolving complaints about electricity and gas, and our 2nd year resolving disputes about broadband installation on shared property, and water,” says Board Chair, Heather Roy.
The increase is largely due to the new broadband installation and water schemes. While the bulk of complaints are still about electricity and gas, those numbers were stable.
Of the 2,059 electricity and gas complaints in 2018-2019, 67% included an issue about billing; 50.5% included an issue about customer service, 11.2% about meters, 9.5% disconnections, and 8% supply.
“We’d like all consumers to know they can contact Utilities Disputes,” says Mrs Roy. “As it’s vital to have access to utilities, including electricity, gas and water, it’s also vital to know there is a free and independent service you can go to if you have an issue you can’t resolve with your provider.”
Strengthening the consumer voice has been a focus of the Government’s Electricity Price Review, which has expressed concern about low consumer awareness of Utilities Disputes.
“Low awareness is a barrier to access,” says Utilities Disputes Commissioner Nanette Moreau. “We are embarking on an awareness campaign in the coming weeks and we hope to reach more New Zealanders.”
“Consumer complaints, and the industry response, create positive change and progress,” says Ms Moreau. “We work through issues with consumers and the industry to help improve customer outcomes.”
“Well-managed complaints make a difference – consumers can make more informed choices, communication can improve, customer service can improve.”
Consumers should be told about Utilities Disputes when they make a complaint to their company, and they should be referred to Utilities Disputes if the complaint remains unresolved.
The Annual Report includes the Energy Complaints Scheme report for accepted ‘deadlocked’ complaints.
“Complaint numbers are not necessarily a negative reflection on a company,” says Ms Moreau. “They can, in fact, highlight proactive customer service.”