Energy retailers asked to keep helping customers during Covid-19
Between tighter budgets and minimal spending, financial stress is at an all time high for many Aussie households.
To ensure that vulnerable Aussies are receiving the assistance they need with their energy bills, the Australian Energy Regulator (AER) has issued an order to retailers to continue supporting customers during the Covid-19 pandemic.
“When people have lost their jobs or business through no fault of their own, it is only fair to expect that they be given any and all help possible, including from their energy providers,” said AER chair, Clare Savage.
“We are asking energy retailers to listen to their customers and any financial counsellors they may choose to engage. Their customers are best placed to know their own circumstances and what they can afford to pay right now.”
To ensure the message is heard, the AER released its Statement of Expectations 2, which outlines the responsibilities a retailer must continue to comply with.
Some of the key responsibilities outlined in the document includes:
- providing information about concessions, rebates and other support
- offering a payment plan that’s based on their capacity to pay with a no payment window if required
- not disconnecting anyone who has contacted them
- immediately reconnecting anyone once they make contact and waiving any associated fees
not referring them to debt collection agencies for recovery actions or credit default listing.
According to the regulator, around 20,000 energy customers were placed onto payment plans in March 2020 alone. And as of July 2020, the total energy debt for approximately 39,500 residential and small businesses customers sits at $35.3m.
“At a time like this, it is vital energy companies remember their broader social obligations. The AER will continue to closely monitor how retailers provide relief and support to their customers and will call out retailers who don’t meet these expectations,” said Savage.
If you think you won't be able to pay your upcoming energy bill, there is financial assistance available. You can find out what your energy retailer is doing to support households by reading our Covid-19 energy support wrap up.
Or if you need information on how to apply for financial hardship with your retailer, our comprehensive guide can help walk you through the process.