The West

Gripes to WA's energy complaints handler-of-last-resort flowed at almost 10 a day last year in the latest sign of the pressure households are under from rising utility prices.

The Energy Ombudsman's annual report, released yesterday, shows it received 3602 complaints in the 12 months to June 30, with most related to electricity and the remainder related to gas issues.

Although the figure was down slightly on the previous financial year, it was 36 per cent higher than in 2009-10 and a staggering 250 per cent more than in 2008-09, when 1099 complaints were received.

During those four years, electricity prices have rocketed almost 70 per cent courtesy of decisions by the Barnett Government and the Federal Government's carbon tax.

Gas prices also rose significantly.

Energy Ombudsman Chris Field, whose agency is called to resolve complaints only after all other process have been exhausted, noted most of last year's complaints were about billing and credit.

These included claims that bills were too high or contained errors, meters were faulty, incorrect tariffs had been applied and people had incorrectly missed out on rebates.

Credit issues included instances that affected a customer's credit rating and instances when someone had difficulty in repaying a high bill.

Energy Minister Peter Collier said he was pleased there had been a reduction in electricity-related complaints, although he was concerned about the overall number of matters being referred.

Mr Collier said gripes might have fallen because of relatively small price rises this year and last.

Shadow energy minister Bill Johnston said the drop in complaints last year was hardly positive news given the extent to which gripes had risen since this Government came to power in 2008.

Mr Johnston said it was unacceptable for State-owned retailer Synergy to continue to use estimates of customers' consumption when calculating bills, saying that was a major area of grievance.

He also singled out Synergy's billing system, saying the plagued project had caused enormous customer dissatisfaction.

The West Australian

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