In recent years QCOSS has broadened its advocacy in the area of essential services to now include work with water utilities, government and the community sector, to ensure that the rights and concerns of low income and disadvantaged consumers are heeded.
QCOSS has been an active participant in Queensland Department of Energy and Water Supply’s Review of the Customer Water and Wastewater Code in South East Queensland, making a submission at the commencement of the review and a follow-up submission to the draft code. QCOSS additionally coordinated community organisations’ responses on how well the Code was working and how it could be improved to meet the needs of consumers.
After a lengthy review period the new code was released on 1 April 2017, outlining the legislative framework for the rights and obligations of SEQ water service providers and their customers. QCOSS has welcomed this important document and is pleased that a number of our recommendations were reflected in the new Code, particularly those relating to early intervention and prevention of financial hardship by improving provisions around transparency and accessibility of hardship policies, and that water service providers must provide Centrepay for customers in financial hardship and who request it. Other positive changes relate to consumers with special requirements to use water for life support and other specific medical reasons.
QCOSS also advocates for the rights of renters with respect to their water use. This cohort accounts for one in every three households in SEQ, and unfortunately they are excluded from the customer protection framework afforded by the code, including dispute resolution services provided by the Energy and Water Ombudsman Queensland. The revision of the code would be the opportunity to allow them access to some protections relating to their needs as occupants and household water users. This comes at a time when renters are paying an increasingly higher proportion of the overall water bill as the state bulk charge increases and tariff restructuring has resulted in higher usage charges on water bills.
Read the Department of Energy and Water Supply’s South East Queensland Customer Water and Wastewater Code here.