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    Coat of ArmsMedia Release
    Minister for Natural Resources, Mines and Energy and Minister for Trade
    The Honourable Stephen Robertson

    Government supports homeowners on water bills

    Minister for Natural Resources, Mines and Energy and Minister for Trade
    The Honourable Stephen Robertson

    Sunday, November 28, 2010

    Government supports homeowners on water bills

    28 November 2010

    New laws introduced by the Bligh Government will reform the way Queensland Urban Utilities, Unitywater and Allconnex Water deal with their customers.

    A new ombudsman service for water bill complaints also has been created.

    Natural Resources, Mines and Energy Minister Stephen Robertson said the new laws, passed in Parliament last week, would require the council-owned water retail businesses to declare their proposed charges three months in advance.

    “The new provisions are aimed at making Queensland Urban Utilities, Unitywater and Allconnex Water more transparent with their water and wastewater charges,’’ he said.

    Mr Robertson said about 75 per cent of the average household water bill in south-east Queensland this year was the result of charges from the council-owned businesses.

    He said it was time councils came clean on how much they are making from water bills and to start giving some of those profits back through customer rebates.

    “The Government is doing all we can to reduce water price rises and we expect the councils to do the same,’’ Mr Robertson said

    “We sold water to the council-owned businesses at a $407 million loss this year.’’

    Changes to the South-East Queensland Water (Distribution and Retail Restructuring) Act 2009 now require council-owned water distributor-retailers in south east Queensland to make their prices and charges readily available to consumers in advance.

    “Each year, these council businesses must publish their proposed charges by 13 March and their final charges by 30 June,’’ Mr Robertson said.

    Mr Robertson said the new laws also addressed some homeowners’ concerns that the council-owned businesses had used estimated meter readings to formulate water bills.

    “The new provisions stipulate that estimated meter readings cannot generally occur for consecutive billing cycles and customer accounts are to clearly identify when a meter read has been estimated,” Mr Robertson said.

    “This is about making the public more confident about the truth of the water and sewerage bills sent out by council-owned water businesses.’’

    Mr Robertson said the water businesses also will be required to move to a consistent billing format – enabling customers to receive straight-forward clear information on their water bills.

    Mr Robertson said customers not happy with water bills could access a new Energy and Water Ombudsman Queensland from 1 January 2011.

    “The formation of the Energy and Water Ombudsman will ensure that small water and wastewater customers within south east Queensland will have access to free and independent dispute resolution services,” he said.

    “A customer must first seek to rectify their concerns with their Distributor-retailer, however if they remain unsatisfied then they may contact the Energy and Water Ombudsman Queensland for advice and investigation.”

    Under the new laws, the Energy and Water Ombudsman will be able to investigate:

    • billing issues – disputed usage;
    • payment difficulties, including debt collection;
    • delays in connection;
    • meter reading or testing disputes;
    • restricted supply;
    • sewerage spills; and
    • actions of a distributor-retailer which may impact on a customer’s property.

    Media contact: 0417 154 660