Energy retailers in Victoria being required to better support customers who are struggling to pay their bills has led to a drop in cases reported to the sector's ombudsman.
The payment difficulty framework came into effect in January and aims to reduce disconnection rates.
Victorian Energy and Water Ombudsman Cynthia Gebert told The Border Mail a 10 per cent drop in cases managed by her office compared to the previous year was an "immediate impact" of the framework.
"Now there are really clear obligations on the retailer to help customers with things like changing intervals of payments and seeking to delay a payment for one billing cycle," she said.
"There were big drops in new connection cases, for customers who were struggling to get a grid connection.
"It's a really good news story that complaints are down, but we recognise there are still a lot of customers who are struggling to deal with the energy and water market."
Overall cases from July 2018 to June 2019 were down by 23 per cent in Wodonga from 279 to 214, reflecting 5.4 cases per 1000 people.
Cases were down for all North East local government areas except for Indigo, with a rise by one case to 70.
But there were more cases specific to high bills in Wangaratta this year, and disconnection cases also increased, from 22 to 25, putting the city second-highest out of the 79 local government areas on a cases per 1000 people basis.
"What I'm worried about is that we will see customers, even with all this assistance, that will struggle to pay for an essential service," Ms Gebert said.
Examples from regional Victoria in the Ombudsman's annual report included a principal seeking compensation for a power surge in June 2018, which resulted in a $63,624 settlement.
IN OTHER NEWS:
AGL was the most complained about company for electricity and gas.
The Ombudsman worked on 25 cases related to the North East Water Corporation, one less than the year prior, and there were 45 cases for Goulburn-Murray Rural Water, an increase of five.