New England and North West residents have been hit hard hit by increased electricity and gas bills, according to data released by the state's top independent regulator.
The region recorded a 26 per cent increase in complaints to the NSW Energy and Water Ombudsman (EWON) last financial year, more than the state average of 22 per cent.
Most of the complaints - 63 per cent - were about issues with managing bills and contracts, including high and estimated bills, tariffs and fees.
The news comes as residents are increasingly struggling to pay utility bills and the number of affordable rentals in the region continues to fall.
An overwhelming majority of complaints from the region related to increased electricity bills - 90 per cent - while gas complaints made up a comparatively small proportion - 5 per cent.
The state's top energy ombudsman said the increasing cost of energy bills is hitting regional areas like New England particularly hard.
"The increase in credit complaints from regional areas paints a concerning picture when we look at the real-life circumstances behind the complaint," Energy and Water Ombudsman Janine Young said.
The New England and North West recorded a similar spike in complaints to the nearby Central West Region, which posted a 28 per cent increase.
The increase brought the New England and North West region to same number of complaints per 10,000 people as the Capital Region which envelops Canberra.
Across the state, 74 per cent of complaints were from major cities, 20 per cent from inner regional, 5 per cent from outer regional and 1 per cent from remote and very remote regions.
"Cost of living pressures have affected a growing number of people in regional NSW, many of whom already face additional barriers in accessing support services when compared to consumers from heavily resourced cities," Ms Young said.
"Many regional communities across NSW have been hit hard by floods, fires and other crisis events in recent years, and now, cost of living stress has compounded the effects."
State-wide, more than 5000 complaints about bills being too high were received by the ombudsman, with nearly 2000 additional complaints regarding faulty bill estimations or other errors.
Ms Young said the increase in credit complaints from regional areas painted a concerning picture of real-life hardship.
"Customers are accruing more debt and run the risk of being disconnected or credit listed if they can't keep on top of their bills," she said.
She called on energy retailers to be proactive in reaching out to consumers experiencing affordability issues, offer appropriate support and make sure customers were receiving the best deal.
"We want customers from right across NSW to know that we are here for them. If you have a problem you can't work out with your provider, we can review your bill, check your rebate entitlements, talk to retailers about outstanding issues and resolve your complaint, give us a call," she said.
If customers are having trouble paying their bill, they should contact their retailer and ask for an affordable payment plan and assessment for rebates and payment assistance eligibility.
If that does not work, EWON can help, call 1800 246 545. EWON is a free, fair and independent dispute resolution service for all electricity and gas customers in New South Wales, and some water customers.
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