About scheme participants

What are scheme participants?

Under the Energy and Water Ombudsman Act 2006,all authorised energy suppliers in Queensland, and water distributor-retailers in South East Queensland, must become members of the EWOQ scheme if they supply electricity, gas or water to small customers.

Small customers are:

  • all residential customers
  • small businesses who use less than:
  • 160 megawatt hours of electricity per year
  • 1 terajoule of gas per year
  • 100 kilolitres of water per year (South East Queensland only).

Local councils supply water to customers outside South East Queensland and are not currently within EWOQ’s jurisdiction.

As a result of the Energy and Water Ombudsman (Prescribed Energy Entities) Amendment Regulation 2021, which came into effect on 28 February 2022, exempt sellers can also join our scheme as EWOQ members.

What’s an exempt seller?

Most people buy their electricity directly from a licensed energy retailer. However, some people buy their electricity from a privately owned energy network – an embedded network. Operators of embedded networks are known as exempt sellers.

Embedded networks are common in retirement villages, apartment blocks and caravan parks. The site owner or operator buys electricity from the grid and on-sells it to the residents. Some exempt sellers manage the energy supply and billing themselves, or they use a billing agent to do it for them.

Requirements of scheme participants

Becoming a member

Energy and water distributors and retailers must apply to become a scheme participant once they’re eligible:

  • energy distributors—as soon as they receive a distribution licence in Queensland
  • energy retailers—within 10 business days of entering into a contract with a Queensland residential or small business customer.

See section 64 of the Act for details on when various energy and water entities become scheme participants.

Scheme participation starts on the day they start selling energy to a small customer. Penalties apply for not applying for membership in the required time frame.

What does it cost?

EWOQ is fully funded by scheme participants through participation fees and user-pays fees.

Scheme participants pay an annual participation fee in July (or part-fee if they become a scheme participant during the financial year). They also pay user-pays fees to cover the costs of resolving complaints we receive about them. These are calculated according to section 69 of the Act.

We publish these fees in our annual budget guidelines (PDF, 355.03 KB).

Under the Act, the Ombudsman may impose a supplementary fee if, due to unforeseen expenditure or a revised budget, the total fees won’t cover all the Ombudsman’s functions.

Becoming a member

From 28 February 2022, embedded network owners and operators in Queensland are eligible to become a member of EWOQ.

This applies to embedded network owners and operators with a class D2, D6, R2, R3, R4, ND2, ND6, NR2, NR3 or NR4 exemption as described in the Australian Energy Regulator's (Retail) Exempt Selling Guideline and Network Service Provider Registration Exemption Guideline.

  • If you’re an exempt seller with 2,000 or fewer customers, you’re automatically deemed an EWOQ scheme participant. Please complete our scheme participant application form so we can support you with updates and resources.
  • If you’re an exempt seller with more than 2,000 customers, you’re required to complete our scheme participant application form and pay a membership fee.

What does it cost?

EWOQ is fully funded by scheme participants through participation fees and user-pays fees.

When an embedded network customer contacts us about a complaint, exempt sellers won’t be charged case management fees at this time.

Annual membership fees may apply for residential exempt sellers and authorised on-supply retailers:

  • Exempt sellers with 2000 or fewer customers will not pay an annual fee
  • Exempt sellers with more than 2000 customers will pay a $5000 annual membership fee
  • Authorised retailers who on-supply electricity will pay $5000 per year for the first authorisation and $10,000 per year for more than one authorisation.

Complete your scheme participant application or if you have further questions contact us on 1800 662 837 or through our scheme membership enquiry form.

What are the benefits?

As a scheme participant, your customers have clear consumer protection and access to a free, fair and independent dispute resolution service for unresolved complaints.

Promoting the scheme

Scheme participants must include EWOQ’s contact details on final disconnection notices or restriction notices and publish contact details on their website.