The most complained about energy companies

What do you think of your energy company? The Australian Energy Regulator (AER) has revealed the number of complaints energy retailers received in the past year. Does your retailer make the list of shame?

The AER’s annual report reveals which energy retailers received the most complaints in 2016-17 across Queensland, South Australia, New South Wales, Tasmania and the ACT. So read on to find out how your energy company performed.

Which energy retailers received the most complaints?

The AER recorded residential and small business customer complaints in each state. Large retailers, particularly Origin Energy, consistently received a large number of complaints. Other poor performers included Simply Energy and Powerdirect. Below is a state breakdown of the five retailers that received the most complaints per 100 customers.

Queensland complaints

Position Retailer Complaints per 100 customers
1 Metered Energy Holdings 22.28
2 Lumo Energy* 17.31
3 Origin Energy 16.61
4 Simply Energy 6.66
5 Powerdirect 5.84

*Lumo Energy no longer retails in Queensland. Source: AER report

Metered Energy Holdings – an embedded electricity retailer for body corporates, unit owners and tenants, received the most complaints in Queensland. Following not too far behind was Lumo Energy and Origin Energy.

New South Wales complaints

Position Retailer Complaints per 100 customers
1 Origin Energy 20.54
2 Lumo Energy* 18.45
3 Simply Energy 5.56
4 AGL 5.53
5 Powerdirect 5.50

*Lumo Energy no longer retails in New South Wales. Source: AER report

Origin Energy received 8.88 fewer complaints per 100 customers in 2016-17 compared to the previous year, yet it still took out the top spot in the AER’s report. Lumo Energy was not too far behind, but the retailer has since stopped operating in the state.

South Australia complaints

Position Retailer Complaints per 100 customers
1 Origin Energy 27.50
2 Powerdirect 5.41
3 Simply Energy 4.94
4 Alinta Energy 4.37
5 QEnergy 4.23

Source: AER report

Origin Energy, one of Australia’s largest energy companies, received the most complaints per 100 customers in South Australia. The other four retailers to make this list received far fewer complaints.

ACT complaints

Position Retailer Complaints per 100 customers
1 Origin Energy 31.12
2 Simply Energy 7.41
3 ActewAGL 3.48
4 EnergyAustralia 1.51
5 Powerdirect 0.83

Source: AER report

Origin once again tops this list with a shocking 31 complaints per 100 customers – nearly one third! AER only had sufficient complaints data for a handful of retailers in ACT. Of these few, Powerdirect received the least complaints.

Tasmania complaints

Position Retailer Complaints per 100 customers
1 Aurora Energy 3.70
2 ERM Power 1.80

Source: AER report

While Tasmania has two electricity retailers, only Aurora can sell electricity to residential customers in the state. ERM Power exclusively operates in business electricity and received fewer complaints than Aurora.

While the data above is a useful indication of customer satisfaction levels, the AER warns against using it to draw conclusions about retailer performance in handling complaints. While a retailer may receive and record a large number of complaints, many of those complaints may be to do with wholesale or network costs and are out of the hand of the retailer. Some retailers may also be able to effectively and promptly deal with complaints before needing to be escalated.

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Which energy retailers received the least complaints?

Residential and small business energy customers generally seem most pleased with the service of smaller retailers, with many small electricity companies receiving less than 1 complaint per 100 customers. The most consistent performers across the states include Momentum Energy, Powershop, Diamond Energy and Red Energy.

Queensland complaints

Position Retailer Complaints per 100 customers
1 Diamond Energy 0.12
2 Powershop 0.37
3 Red Energy 0.78
4 Ergon Energy 0.99
5 Click Energy 1.00

Source: AER report
According to the AER, Diamond Energy was the least complained about retailer currently operating in SE Queensland. Ergon Energy, the government-owned electricity company servicing rural customers across Queensland, also performed well.

New South Wales complaints

Position Retailer Complaints per 100 customers
1 OC Energy 0.13
2 Blue NRG 0.14
3 Powershop 0.31
4 Diamond Energy 0.48
5 Momentum Energy 0.57

Source: AER report
OC Energy is an embedded electricity supplier and operating, providing power to unit developments and apartment occupants. Blue NRG, in second place in NSW, is a business electricity retailer and doesn’t sell to residential customers.

South Australia complaints

Position Retailer Complaints per 100 customers
1 Momentum Energy 0.58
2 Diamond Energy 0.96
3 Savant Energy Power Networks 1.14
4 Red Energy 1.44
5 ERM Power 1.79

Source: AER report
Momentum Energy received the lowest number of complaints in SA in 2016-17, according to the AER. This was followed by Diamond Energy and Savant Energy Power Networks – an embedded network manager for multi-tenant facilities.

The AER only had complaint data recorded for the main five energy retailers in the ACT and only two in the Tasmania, so they aren’t listed in this section.

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What are we complaining about?

South Australia and New South Wales recorded the most complaints per 100 customers in 2016-17, with Queensland not too far behind. The AER reports a considerable drop in complaints across most states in 2016-17 compared to the 2015-16 period, although it points out Origin Energy may have over-captured complaints in the previous periods.

As you can see from the graph below, most complaints regard billing. This includes issues about price, billing errors, payment arrangements, debt recovery practices and disconnections. Our next largest complaint falls under the ‘other’ category. This includes complaints about customer service, privacy issues, failure to respond to complaints and health & safety issues. There were very few complaints about the marketing practices of energy companies. There were also relatively few issues regarding the timeliness of transfers.

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Which retailers are customers most satisfied with?

The number of complaints an energy retailer receives isn’t the full picture – a retailer may receive many complaints, but handle them well. Conversely, an energy retailer with only a few complaints might deal with them poorly. To offer a guide as to which electricity retailers are keeping their customers the most satisfied overall, Canstar Blue annually canvasses the opinions of thousands of households, asking them to rate their experience with their energy retailer across six key variables, including value for money and customer service. Check out the link below to see how your power company performed.

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