Energy and water cases
ACAT deals with energy and water issues if you have:
- been disconnected or are having trouble paying your bills
- a dispute with your utility company.
Problems paying your utility bills
If you are having trouble paying your electricity, gas or water bill, you first need to talk to the utility company about entering into a payment plan.
When contacting your utility company:
- get in touch as soon as you’re having difficulties to keep any debt on the account from getting out of hand
- ask about their hardship program
- ask them whether you’re on the best deal
- be realistic about entering a payment plan – do not enter a payment plan you cannot afford.
ACAT hardship assistance
If you have not been able to enter into a realistic agreement with your utility company, we may be able to help you enter into an arrangement and keep your home connected. We call this a hardship application.
If you need ACAT hardship assistance:
- Call us on (02) 6207 7740.
- We will schedule a time for you to attend ACAT for a meeting.
- We may order the utility not to disconnect your supply until this meeting occurs.
- We will send you a form to complete prior to the meeting. Please bring it along. If you’re having difficulties with the form, ACAT staff will assist you on the day of your meeting.
At the meeting ACAT Members will discuss your circumstances and consider options for continuing your supply. ACAT may make an agreement (we call this an order), which usually will require you to make regular payments. This agreement will protect you from further action by the utility company, including disconnection, while you follow the terms of your agreement.
If you have been disconnected from your utility supply and your utility company will not reconnect you, contact us on (02) 62077740 to discuss your situation.
Review our pamphlet about hardship assistance [PDF 107KB].
Utility complaints and disputes
ACAT functions as the energy and water ombudsman for the ACT, and deals with complaints relating to utilities.
When contacting your utility company, write down details of the conversation (including the name of the person you spoke to, time of the call and reference number). You should tell the utility company what the problem is and how you want it fixed.
If this does not resolve your issue:
- ask to speak with a senior officer, manager, or be referred to the utility company’s complaints resolution team
- put your complaint in writing, either by email or mail, so that the utility has a detailed record of your complaint that you can both refer to later.
If you are not able to resolve your complaint with the utility, you can refer your complaint to us.
Types of complaints
We deal with wide a range of energy and water complaints, such as:
- customers who believe they have been overcharged (high bills)
- customers who have been wrongly disconnected
- customers who have complaints about a debt collection, external debt collector or who have been credit default listed
- customers who need to make payment arrangements for closed accounts
- direct marketing and salespeople
- issues with connections and transferring between utilities
- vegetation issues and land access disputes
- metering and connections
- network faults, supply and unscheduled power outages.
We cannot deal with complaints about:
- capital contribution costs relating to energy distributors
- the unit price and other regulated charges of electricity, gas or water.
How to lodge a complaint with ACAT
You can make a complaint about an energy or water matter:
- by sending an email to email@example.com or
- if it is not possible to send an email, call us on (02) 6207 1740.
If we cannot take your call, please leave a message with your name and number, and the energy and water team will get back to you.
You should tell us:
- your contact details
- the utility company’s details
- details of your complaint
- the outcome you want.
What you can expect
ACAT is an independent body and will not advocate for you or the utility company. Where appropriate, we will provide advice based on our experience and the utilities regulations to assist the parties to reach a resolution.
ACAT will try to deal with your complaint in a reasonable and timely manner. If you contact ACAT about an issue that is outside our jurisdiction, we will try to direct you to the correct agency.
How ACAT will deal with your complaint
Generally, we will send your complaint to the utility company and ask an officer of a higher level review your complaint. This process is referred to as a RHL (referral to higher level) or assisted referral. The utility company has five business days to make initial contact with you. If the RHL does not resolve your concerns, you should contact us.
When you lodge a complaint you are required to actively participate in the resolution process. It is important to respond to our requests for information and emails promptly. If you cannot respond in the timeframe provided, please let us know. You can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
While a matter is being investigated:
- you should continue paying non-disputed amounts to the utility company
- you should not make contact with the utility company about the complaint.
An investigation usually involves:
- Notifying the utility company of your complaint and asking them for information.
- Giving you the utility's response for your review, which may resolve your complaint. If your concerns are not resolved, you will provide additional information to the utility company and ACAT to consider. We may also ask you questions to help us understand the issues.
- Sharing your response with the utility, and any questions or points for them to consider. The utility company’s response is provided to you and any further questions we have. We may provide you some guidance on whether the utility is complying with their obligations.
- If the parties cannot reach a resolution, ACAT will review the file and decide whether:
While we try to keep information exchanges to a minimum, they serve a purpose in helping the parties and ACAT explore the issues and gain information.
Requesting a review
If you are not satisfied with the outcome of ACAT’s investigation or a decision not to investigate further, you may request a review. You can request a review if you believe:
- there was an error made by ACAT
- there is additional information that you believe will change the outcome.
This review will be handled by a different person or in some cases, by an ACAT Member.
You should make a request for the matter to be reviewed, in writing, within 14 days of ACAT finalising the investigation.
A decision and order made by an ACAT Member cannot be reviewed. However, you may be able to lodge an appeal.
Resources for consumers
Find general information on:
- comparing energy prices or getting advice on making a complaint – Australian Energy Regulator (AER)
- ACT Smart's Energy Efficiency Program
- reducing energy bills – Department of Environment and Energy
Hardship programs and financial difficulties
Find information from:
- Care Financial Counselling
- Salvation Army Financial Counselling
- No Interest Loan Scheme (NILS)
- ACT Government Utilities Concession Information
- Australian Energy Regulator
Find major retailer hardship program information at:
Regulators and other bodies
Find information from:
- Australian Energy Regulator
- Independent Competition & Regulatory Commission (ICRC)
- Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (OAIC)
- Energy & Water complaints for NSW Customers (EWON)
- Energy & Water complaints for Victorian Customers (EWOV)
Find out about:
ACT Civil and Administrative TribunalA tribunal established under the ACT Civil and Administrative Tribunal Act 2008. It may also be referred to as ACAT or Tribunal.
Administrative reviewACAT has jurisdiction to review some administrative decisions made by the ACT Government. Find out about Review of ACT Government decisions.
Alternative dispute resolution (ADR)Also known as dispute resolution. This is a way of resolving disputes without a formal hearing. It may involve a preliminary conference or mediation. ADR is used to help parties resolve cases by agreement.
AnorMeans ‘and another’. This term is generally used to name parties to proceedings when there is more than one applicant or respondent.
Appeal TribunalA tribunal constituted under section 81 of the ACT Civil and Administrative Tribunal 2008 to review a decision of the tribunal (not all ACAT decisions are appealable at ACAT – you may need to go to the Supreme Court).
AppellantThe individual or company that appeals an ACAT decision.
Authorising lawsA law that says an application (including referrals) may be made to ACAT. An authorising law may also set out the powers ACAT has in a case. Also see ‘jurisdiction’.
ApplicantThe individual or company that brings a case to ACAT, usually by making an application.
Calling a witnessA party or their representative will ‘call a witness’ at an ACAT hearing when they ask a witness to give evidence.
CaseAlso known as a matter, dispute, application or referral. Cases come to ACAT when ACAT has jurisdiction (power) to make a decision.
Cross-examinationThe process of asking a witness questions to test or check the evidence that the witness has given to ACAT.
Deliver a decisionAlso ‘handing down a decision’. This is giving a decision about an ACAT case. It may be done verbally or in writing (or both).
DirectionsInstructions that set out what each party must do (and when), often to prepare a case for hearing.
Directions hearingA short hearing where an ACAT Member or Registrar decides how to manage a case and what needs to be done before a hearing. Find out about directions hearings.
Ex parte orderAn order made by ACAT where one or more parties were not present.
Expert reportA written report from an expert that may be used as evidence.
Expert witnessA person with specialised knowledge based on their training, study or experience. An expert can give evidence at a hearing. Find out more about witness statements.
Final directions hearingSometimes ACAT will hold a final directions hearing prior to the final hearing of an application. The purpose is to make sure the case is ready to go to a hearing and give the parties a chance to ask questions about the hearing process.
Handed upGiving documents to an ACAT Member or Registrar in a hearing.
In chambersWhen ACAT considers something without holding a hearing.
Joined party (joined/joinder)A party who was not originally a party to the dispute but has later been added to the case.
JurisdictionACAT’s authority (power) to deal with, hear and decide applications (cases).
LeaveIf someone asks for leave, they are usually asking for permission to do something.
List (or listing)A schedule (or list) of cases to be heard at ACAT each day.
Listing noticeA letter or written document from ACAT that sets out when a conference, mediation or hearing is scheduled at ACAT.
MediationA private meeting where parties discuss ways to resolve their dispute, with the help of an impartial mediator (who is also an ACAT Member or Registrar). It is held under section 35 of the ACT Civil and Administrative Tribunal Act 2008.
Non-publication and/or non-disclosure orderAlso called a ‘suppression order’. It is an order that requires certain information not to be published or disclosed. It is made under section 39 of the ACT Civil and Administrative Tribunal Act 2008. Find out about public hearings and confidentiality.
Opening statementUsually means a statement made at the beginning of a hearing to outline the key points in the case. Sometimes parties are asked to give an opening statement at a mediation or preliminary conference.
Originating applicationAn application that starts an ACAT case.
Party or partiesAn individual or company directly involved in an ACAT case, for example an applicant or respondent. Find out how to identify and name parties.
Preliminary conferenceA private meeting where parties discuss ways to resolve their dispute with the help of an ACAT Member or Registrar. See section 33 of the ACT Civil and Administrative Tribunal Act 2008. ACAT has different types of preliminary conferences.
RegistryThe administrative section of ACAT that accepts documents lodged by parties, handles enquiries and provides support for case management.
RepresentativeA person who represents or advocates for an individual or company at a conference, mediation or hearing at ACAT. For example, a legal practitioner or an attorney appointed under a general power of attorney.
Reserved decisionWhen an ACAT Member or Registrar reserves a decision (at the end of a hearing), this means they will give their decision later, either verbally or in writing (sometimes both).
RespondentThe party (or parties) against whom orders or relief is sought.
Short service orderAn order that authorises a shorter time for service (than the time otherwise required).
Serve/serviceA person who can give evidence at a hearing. Find out about witness statements.
Statement of reasonsA document that explains why ACAT made an order in a case. It sets out the law relied on by an ACAT Member or Registrar and explains how the law was applied to the facts of the case. You can request a written statement of reasons within 14 days after an order is made. Find out about statement of reasons.
StayAn order for a particular action (or decision) to be put on hold or suspended for a period of time.
SubmissionA document that sets out your side of a case or dispute and the relevant law. It is presented to ACAT either in writing, verbally or both. Find out about submissions.
SubpoenaRequires a person to appear at ACAT to give evidence or provide documents (or both). Find out about subpoenas.
Substituted service orderAn order that says how a party is to be served with an application or other documents related to the proceedings. In a civil dispute or a rental dispute, an applicant will need to consider asking for a substituted service order if they do not have a physical address for the respondent. Find out about lodging and serving documents.
WitnessA person who can give evidence at a hearing. Find out about witness statements.