Business is booming for the Electricity and Gas Complaints Commissioner. Complaints to the office have soared 85 percent in the year to June. Commissioner Judi Jones expects the upward trend to continue: she predicts another 30 percent hike in business in the coming year.

A sizeable chunk (40 percent) of the 1210 complaints made to the commissioner last year were about power bills. We’re not surprised. If your power company has been reading your meter incorrectly or charging you the wrong tariff, you may get stung for the error. That’s because electricity retailers often bury clauses in their contracts that mean consumers get billed for the company’s mistakes.

Many of these clauses fall foul of the Electricity Authority’s minimum terms and conditions for domestic electricity contracts. But retailers face no penalty for coming up short: the authority’s terms and conditions are voluntary, at least for the time being.

Complaints received

In 2010 the Electricity and Gas Complaints Commissioner received 1210 complaints. They related to:

  • billing problems (40 percent)
  • customer service (19 percent)
  • meters (11 percent)
  • disconnection (8 percent)
  • debt (7 percent)
  • other issues including switching, supply, and distribution lines (15 percent).

92 percent of complaints were about electricity companies.

A survey on behalf of the Electricity and Gas Complaints Commissioner found there was still a very low level of awareness of its scheme. That could mean complaints received so far may just be the tip of the iceberg.

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