Bill shock: Smaller energy retailers attract most consumer ire

Complaints about electricity and gas bills are unlikely to fall any time soon as consumers brace for skyrocketing energy prices this summer.

While the big three retailers – AGL, Origin and Energy – attracted the most complaints in the three months to September 30, the highest per capita levels of customer dissatisfaction were reserved for the smaller retailers.

The regulator received a total of 48,459 complaints in the quarter, mostly about billing. Of those, 38,498 were about the big three retailers across Queensland, NSW and South , up 6.7 per cent on the previous three months.

But WIN Energy, a Victorian-based retailer, was the most complained about retailer in the September quarter, with almost six complaints for every 100 customers, according to the n Energy Regulator (AER).

South-East Queensland-based Metered Energy again made the top five, with 5.089 complaints per 100 customers, once more centred wholly around billing.

Another Victorian small retailer, People Energy, rounded out the top three most complained about operators, with more than two out of every 100 customers complaining about billing issues.

The least complained about companies were OC Energy, Diamond Energy and ActewAGL.

When it came to commercial energy users, Alinta Energy, Simply Energy and Aurora Energy were the most complained about companies.

Year on year, consumer complaints have been rising as households deal with the increasingly difficult issue of energy affordability.

Complaints peaked in 2014-15 at more than 580,000 before dropping more than 40 per cent the following year to about 333,000. They jumped again in 2016-17 to the second-highest level in the past five years at 517,131.

NSW accounted for the most complaints last financial year, with AGL, Origin and Energy attracting the most ire.

Business complaints followed a different trajectory, peaking in 2015-16 financial year at 59,831 before falling by a third in 2016-17 to 43,453.

Bills will continue to be a concern for consumers, as the Energy Market Commission predicts prices across the country will rise sharply in the first quarter of 2018 before falling by 6.2 per cent each year on average over the next two years from July.