This submission is the result of a collaboration between the Consumer Utilities Advocacy Centre, the Victorian Council of Social Services, Consumer Action Law Centre and the Financial and Consumer Rights Council.
Collectively, our organisations represent the interests of the majority of Victorian residential and small business energy consumers—being particularly cognisant of the special needs of low income and vulnerable households—and we have a keen interest in ensuring that dispute resolution services for energy consumers remain effective to protect the rights of these consumers. The lawyers of Consumer Action and financial counsellors across Victoria regularly refer clients to the Energy and Water Ombudsman of Victoria (EWOV) for assistance in resolving energy and water disputes. These community workers rely on this service to assist clients to represent themselves and resolve their own disputes. Without this avenue, many of our clients would be unable to assert their own rights. Therefore, we consider it immensely important that EWOV maintains its balance and effectiveness. Further, from a policy perspective, all the contributing organisations rely on EWOV to provide information as to complaint trends and statistics, and to identify systemic issues that occur in the energy and water sectors.
The broad view of contributors to this submission is that, while there is room for improvement, EWOV is providing an essential service of a high standard and should be congratulated. Contributors to this submission on the whole consider EWOV to be a fair, accessible and effective dispute resolution scheme for our clients, though some concerns are raised below. The results of a survey of financial counsellors and caseworkers support this view. EWOV is one of the most important External Dispute Resolution services in Victoria, and we would like to see it continuously improve.
A full copy of our submission is available by clicking Energy and Water Ombudsman Victoria independent review issues paper, and the attachment referred to in the submission is available here.