The Australian Government and the Australian Energy Regulator (AER) are continuing to ensure that support is provided to Australian households and small businesses experiencing financial hardship because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
In recognition of the significant impact the pandemic is having on the lives of all Australians, the Government, through the AER, has set strong but reasonable expectations of the support that energy companies must provide their customers.
First outlined in March 2020 and updated in July 2020, the Statement of Expectations will now extend key consumer protections through to 31 March 2021 and potentially beyond.
Key support measures the Government expects of energy companies include:
- Continuing to offer all households and small businesses in financial stress a payment plan or hardship arrangement.
- Assisting customers to make existing payment plans sustainable, by re-calculating debt obligations using a lower cost plan if available.
- Waiving disconnection, re-connection and/or contract break fees, along with daily supply charges for small businesses that have ceased operating.
- Not disconnecting residential customers in financial distress that have made contact with their retailer or responded to communications.
- Not disconnecting small business customers that are adhering to a payment plan or payment arrangement.
The AER will continue to monitor energy debt levels to ensure that the energy industry’s response to the pandemic is delivering the right outcomes for customers.
Minister for Energy and Emissions Reduction Angus Taylor said that it is vital that households and businesses receive support to deal with the economic repercussions of COVID-19.
“The Government recognises the ongoing impact of COVID-19 on Australian households and businesses and keeping the lights on isn’t something we want people to be worried about,” Minister Taylor said.
“For anyone who is experiencing hardship or facing difficulties in paying their bills, I urge them to contact their retailer to discuss the support that is available.
“However it is important that customers who can pay their bills continue to do so, in order for support to be provided where it is most needed. Retailers and consumers must work together.”
Australians can find tips for reducing their energy costs and getting the rebates and help they are eligible for on energy.gov.au.
Households and small businesses can also use the Government’s free energy price comparison website Energy Made Easy to shop around for the best deal for their current situation.
Source: Australian Government