FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS General ...more>> 1. What is an energy or water supplier?...more>> An energy supplier is an entity that is involved in the providing energy to your property, including the transmission, distribution and supply of electricity, or the distribution and supply of gas and associated energy services. When we refer to an energy or water supplier, we are really talking about the Members of our Scheme. The energy industry is a competitive market. An energy supplier can be an energy retailer, who sells the electricity or gas to you, and issues your bills (see "What is an energy retailer") or an energy distributor, who owns and maintains the poles pipes and wires and is responsible for your electricity or gas meter (see "What is an energy distributor"). A water supplier is an entity that provides water services to your property. The water industry is not competitive, and SA Water is both the distributor and retailer for water is South Australia. 2. How can the Energy and Water Ombudsman SA help if I have a complaint? ...more>> We can assist with your gas, electricity or water complaint by referring the matter to a higher level at your supplier, provided you have tried to resolve the matter directly with them in the first instance. If you still remain dissatisfied, we can carry out an independent investigation into your complaint and provide you with a written resolution. see What we Do and Making a Complaint for further details. 3. Can the Ombudsman help me with a complaint on behalf of someone else? ...more>> Yes, but you must be authorised on their account, have Power of Attorney, or have completed an Authority to Act form. Energy ...more>> 1. What is a standing contract? ...more>> A standing contract is a basic type of retail energy contract that is available if you do not want to accept a market contract. Its terms and conditions are set by the Industry Regulator under the relevant Industry Code and cannot be altered by the energy retailer. AGL is the energy retailer that has standing contracts for electricity and Origin Energy for gas. Note: Standing contracts are generally not available for solar customers. 2. What is a market contract? ...more>> A market contract is a retail energy contract that varies from the regulated terms and conditions of the standing contract. Market contracts must still comply with the consumer protection requirements specified by the Energy Retail Code. However, tariffs, fees, discounts and other conditions are not regulated. 3. What is a default contract? ...more>> A default contract applies if you start using electricity or gas at your supply address without first entering into a standing or market contract. The last retailer to have a contract with a customer at that address will be the default retailer responsible for billing you. While default contracts are approved by the Industry Regulator, the rates may be higher than standing regulated rates. 4. What is energy retail competition? ...more>> Energy retail competition means that other energy retailers can compete with your existing retailer to sell electricity or gas to households and small businesses. Energy retailers may market to customers door to door, by mail, electronic means or by telephone. 5. Can I choose my own energy retail company? ...more>> Yes you can. The energy market was deregulated in 2003. This means a customer can choose any of the licensed retailers in South Australia. Be sure to read the terms and conditions before the cooling off period ends to avoid any penalties. See What is an energy retailer? 6. When can I change my energy retail company? ...more>> Generally you can change energy retailers as at your next scheduled meter read date - provided there is safe and safe and clear access to the meter and an actual metering reading is obtained. However, special arrangements can be made between you and your energy retailer. 7. What should I consider before changing my energy retail company? ...more>> Before deciding to change energy retailers, check the terms and conditions of any existing contract that you may be on in case exit fees are applicable. It is useful to have some knowledge about your energy usage and so keep your energy bills to help you work out how much electricity and gas you use. The Essential Services Commission of SA (ESCOSA) has a comparison service that enables customers to compare their retail electricity, gas and dual-fuel offers online or by telephone. Ring ESCOSA's comparison service on freecall 1800 226 100 or select "Energy Price Comparison" on their website www.escosa.sa.gov.au. Once you have made your decision, contact your chosen energy company to discuss it further. Please refer to Fact Sheet 1 for further information. 8. Do I have to sign a contract for it to be legal? ...more>> No. However, when you enter into a market contract you must give your explicit informed consent, which is acceptance of their offer, either written or verbal. Energy retailers are required by the Industry Regultor to keep records of any explicit informed consent for two years. 9. Can my account be transferred to another energy retail company without my consent? ...more>> No. You must give explicit informed consent for your account to be transferred. 10. What is an energy retailer? ...more>> An energy retailer is a licensed energy company that sells energy to customers. Currently the following companies are licensed energy retailers in South Australia: AGL Alinta Energy Diamond Energy Energy Australia (formerly TRUenergy) Lumo Energy Momentum Energy Origin Energy Powerdirect Red Energy Sanctuary Energy Simply Energy For contact details click here. 11. What is a distributor? ...more>> A distributor is the company that owns and maintains the infrastructure but does not sell gas or electricity. Distributors own, and are responsible for reading the meters at your property. In South Australia, SA Power Networks (formerly ETSA Utilities) is the electricity distributor and Envestra is the gas distributor. Any enquiry concerning reading of your meter should in the first instance be directed to your energy retailer (the company that sends you the bills). For contact details click here. 12. How often should my meter be read? ...more>> For residential properties your meter should be read quarterly. However, an actual reading is to be obtained at least once in each 12 month period. If there is an issue with access to your meter, an estimated reading will be provided. For commercial properties, the meter may be read more regularly (usually monthly). Some properties may have a 'smart' meter, where readings can be obtained remotely at regular intervals. 13. Why has my bill been estimated? ...more>> If your meter reading has been estimated it is most likely because there was no access to the meter. Some reasons for this are: locked gate; no one home; dog on property; or access blocked. However, on occasion the meter may be misread, resulting in an estimated reading. Customers are obligated to provide safe and convenient access to the meters at all times. 14. When can a meter reader access my property and do they need my authority before entering? ...more>> A representative of the electricity or gas distributor or water company may, at any reasonable time, enter a customer supply address to read, repair, replace or check the accuracy of a meter. The representative does not need your authorisation before entering, but they are required to carry identification and show this to you if you request. If access is not obtained, it will result in you receiving an estimated bill and any other request will be unable to be completed. Customers are obligated to provide safe and convenient access to the meters at all times. 15. If I can't pay my bill what can I do? ...more>> You should contact your energy retailer immediately to discuss payment options. If you have entered into a payment arrangement it is important that you maintain it. Failure to do so may result in disconnection and/or debt collection action. Please refer to Fact Sheet 9 and Fact Sheet 10 16. What is REES (Residential Energy Efficiency Scheme)? ...more>> REES is a State Government program to help consumers become energy smart and lower their energy bills. Energy retailers are able to choose from a long list of energy saving measures which the Government has prescribed for the REES. Please contact your energy retailer to find out what they can do to assist you. Refer to www.energy.sa.gov.au/government_programs/rees for more information. 17. How can I arrange a home energy audit and what will it cost? ...more>> An energy audit of your home may be available from a trained person via the Residential Energy Efficiency Scheme (REES). This is a State Government program to help you understand how you and your home use energy. The auditor will look at how energy efficient your home is and provide information on what could realistically be done to make it more efficient and to use less energy. This may be available through your energy retailer and if you are on government concession it may be free. Refer to www.energy.sa.gov.au/government_programs/rees for more information or contact your energy retailer. 18. I have a solar system. How much do I get paid for feeding electricity back into the grid? ...more>> Under South Australia's Electricity (Feed-In Scheme - Solar Systems) Amendment Act 2008, SA Power Networks (formerly ETSA Utilities) will credit you for every unit of electricity from your solar system which is in excess of your household's consumption and returned to the grid. SA Power Networks will pay the credit to your energy retailer which is obliged to pass through the credit to your electricity account. For information about the scheme refer to www.sa.gov.au/energy/solarfeedin Under the Electricity (Miscellaneous) Amendment Act 2011, your energy retailer is also required to pay a feed-in tariff premium for each unit of electricity returned to the grid. This amount is set by the Industry Regulator (refer to www.escosa.sa.gov.au for further information). 19. My bill is in credit as I generate more power from solar panels than I use. When do I get paid? ...more>> If you remain in credit after 12 months, you are entitled to have this balance paid rather than maintaining an ongoing credit with your energy retailer. If you have been in credit for over 12 months you can contact your energy retailer to request a refund. 20. What is load shedding? ...more>> During summer, SA Power Networks (formerly ETSA Utilities) is sometimes directed by the national electricity market operator to conduct load shedding, which involves half-hour power outages on a rotational basis across metropolitan Adelaide. Load shedding is conducted in order to alleviate pressure on the national electricity network in times of peak demand (summer). If SA Power Networks is required to shed load, they will announce all suburbs affected through their website and through the media, including ABC radio. For more information please visit: www.etsa.com.au/centric/customers/your_questions_answered/faqs.jsp 21. What if I have a complaint about installation of an appliance? ...more>> It is not within the Ombudsman's jurisdiction to handle this type of complaint (see What we do). Instead, such complaints should be referred to Consumer and Business Services. 22. What if I have a complaint about an electric or gas appliance? ...more>> It is not within the Ombudsman's jurisdiction to handle a complaint of this nature (see What we do) and it should be referred to Consumer and Business Services. 23. What if I have a complaint about my solar system installation? ...more>> It is not within the Ombudsman's jurisdiction to handle this type of complaint (see What we do). Instead, such complaints should be referred to Consumer and Business Services. 24. What if I have a complaint about LPG supply / gas bottles? ...more>> It is not within the Ombudsman's jurisdiction to handle a complaint of this nature (see What we do) and it should be referred to Consumer and Business Services. 25. What if I have a complaint about an electrician or a gas fitter? ...more>> It is not within the Ombudsman's jurisdiction to handle a complaint of this nature (see What we do) and it should be referred to Consumer and Business Services. 26. I don't actually know my energy retailer. How do I find this out? ...more>> For electricity, you can contact ETSA directly on 131 261 and they should be able to tell you who is currently the retailer for your address. If you have been unable to find out, contact us and we may be able to find out for you. For gas, contact Envestra on 1300 001 001 option 5 and they should be able to tell you who is currently the retailer for your address. If you are able to provide your actual meter number, then they will be able to ensure that they give you the correct information. See our Fact Sheet 7: Meters explained for further information. 27. What if my meter is not accessible?... ...more>> Contact your energy retailer to find out your meter reading cycle and discuss what options you have to arrange access to ensure that an actual reading is able to be obtained. Water...more>> 1. Why has my water bill/water usage increased? ....more>> Higher than normal water usage can be due to many factors such as warmer weather conditions, wastage (dripping taps, leaking pipes and faulty toilet cisterns), an increase in the size of the family or increased lawn and garden plantings, as well as the introduction of pools or spas, evaporative coolers, dishwashers or washing machines. In most cases these factors are the reasons for high usage rather than incorrect meter readings or inaccurate meters. If you receive a water bill that is higher than normal it is important to determine the reason for the increase. To make this determination you must first compare your water usage (kL's) during the same period in previous years. Comparing the dollar amount of the bill will not accurately dictate the reason for the increase as there may have been increases in water usage or service charges. If you are not satisfied that you have used the amount of water recorded by your meter, you may apply for the meter to be tested. If the meter is found to be recording accurately, a fee will be charged for the test. If the meter is found to be faulty, the fee will be credited back to your account. SA Water has a system that routinely monitors your water accounts and if they detect a sudden unusual increase in your water consumption they will notify you as soon as possible. 2. How do I check my water usage? ....more>> By finding out a bit more about how your meter works, you'll be able to check for leaks in your plumbing. A leak on your property can waste thousands of litres of water, at considerable cost to you. So follow these easy steps to find out if there are any leaks on your property: Check the water meter and write down the reading (all numbers - black & red) Make sure no-one in the household uses any water for a couple of hours Check the water meter again If the reading is different to your first reading a couple of hours ago, there is water leak that needs to be found and fixed. As leaks tend to get worse, it is important that you engage a licensed plumber to fix any problems as soon as possible. You should then call SA Water on 1300 650 950 to determine if you are eligible for a Leakage Allowance. Please refer to the SA Water website www.sawater.com.au for assistance with reading your water meter and detecting leaks. 3. If I have had a leak on my property or unexplained high water usage, will SA Water provide me with an allowance? ....more>> Under certain conditions, you may be able to apply for an allowance of up to 50 percent of the estimated water wasted due to concealed leaks in your property's pipework or in the situation of unexplained high water use. SA Water will grant one allowance in a ten year period for properties continuing in the same ownership. However, they will not grant an allowance if a leakage or unexplained high water use has occurred on a commercial property. Other conditions and restrictions also apply and are outlined in the Leakage Allowance Application Form which is available by contacting SA Water. If a concealed leak has occurred at your property, and you wish to apply for a special allowance, you need to send the completed application form to SA Water for assessment. 4. I am having difficulty in paying my SA Water account, is there any assistance that SA Water can offer? ....more>> Sometimes it is difficult to meet household expenses and other financial obligations due to economic hardship, temporary financial difficulty or tragic life events. In order to provide assistance, SA Water has introduced a Customer Assist Program for customers who are having difficulties and providing assistance as early as possible. Financial hardship can occur due to a number of circumstances including unemployment, low or reduced income, ill health, domestic violence, addiction, unexpected large or multiple bills and relationship breakdown. The Customer Assist Program will help customers who are willing to pay their account but do not have the financial capacity to do so. SA Water Customer Assist Officers are trained to provide support, information and assistance whilst exercising respect, sensitivity and confidentiality at all times and can be contacted on 74241650. 5. What if I have a complaint about a plumber? ....more>> It is not within the Ombudsman's jurisdiction to handle a complaint of this nature (see What we do) and it should be referred to Consumer and Business Services.