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Collaboration leads to fairer treatment for customers

We've joined forces with the Consumer Utilities Advocacy Centre (CUAC), to help build on 20 years of customer support.

31 March 2016

Through working with CUAC, Melbourne’s largest water retailer hopes to help produce an industry best practice benchmark for utilities in how to deal with customers as fairly as possible.

As part of the new initiative, Yarra Valley Water, along with City West Water, South East Water – and the top tier energy retailers nationwide – Origin Energy, AGL and EnergyAustralia, have welcomed CUAC and provided access to observe interactions with customers at all levels. The aim is to develop a set of “Principles for a Fair Consumer Experience” across the utility sector.

Pat McCafferty, Managing Director said that Yarra Valley Water is excited to have the opportunity to take part in this project, to learn and share experiences which could benefit millions of Australians across the utility sector.

“The largest Victorian Water and energy businesses are offering complete transparency in how they interact with customers. This project highlights a real commitment to collaborate across the utility sector, with the aim of achieving the best outcomes for customers. Our customer support program has been in place for almost 20 years and provides focused support to customers experiencing financial hardship.

"We have invited CUAC into our business with an open door policy and complete transparency, to share the good things we are doing with our existing programs, as well as to help show us where we can make improvements. They will have access to all our policies and processes, as well as spending time in our organisation looking at how those things work in reality. Various people across the business will meet with CUAC representatives, from the Managing Director to our frontline staff.

This project highlights a real commitment to collaborate across the utility sector, with the aim of achieving the best outcomes for customers.

“As a sector we want to ensure our customers are being adequately supported and treated fairly. Industry wide guidelines will also mean that customers will get a consistent service, making it easier for customers to get access to what they need, when they need it. We are enthusiastic to share what we know, and also to have access to real examples from other businesses that we can learn from.

“History has taught us that to offer the best support available to customers, we must continue to take a realistic look at the experience our customers receive. Extensive research conducted in 2013 by the Melbourne water industry indicated that 42% of our community were vulnerable to financial hardship if their circumstances changed. In response to this staggering figure we developed the WaterCare program, to streamline the assistance available to customers.

“The online WaterCare Hub was also developed as a dedicated resource for customers and the community sector. It contains a wealth of information about the support available, and also has resources in 19 different languages. While we are confident that these tools have benefited the community and our customers, we recognise that we need to continually improve. Through independent reviews such as the CUAC initiative we can evaluate where we are doing well, and more importantly we can better understand our opportunities to improve” added Mr McCafferty.

To find out more about WaterCare visit