The Australian Energy Regulator (AER) says the new Customer Hardship Policy Guideline will provide stronger protections to households having trouble paying their energy bills.
National Seniors Australia participated in the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission’s Electricity supply & prices inquiry, which informed the new guideline.
The AER advises that as long as you are in a hardship program and meeting its conditions, you cannot legally be disconnected.
Customers participating in a hardship program will receive the following:
- access to different payment options
- help in finding a better energy plan
- tips on energy efficiency
- information about government concessions, relief schemes, energy rebates and financial counselling services.
Other help may also be available.
All energy providers have a hardship policy that tells you how they can assist you if you are having trouble paying your energy bills. You can find this policy on the provider’s website. You can also ask them to post you a copy.
The guidelines also require retailers to work harder to quickly identify customers struggling with their bills and meaningfully engage with them.
The AER’s report on the retail energy market shows that in 2017-18, over 82,000 energy customers were in hardship programs. Only 22 per cent of electricity and 17 per cent of gas customers successfully completed them.
There’s still a long way to go.
The rising cost of electricity is an issue that impacts everyone, particularly older Australians on fixed incomes.
With your support, we can help cut energy prices by lobbying governments and industry to tackle the issue at the root cause.