UCWB financial counsellors have put together a summary of the Australian Government’s expectations of energy businesses during this time. This information is correct as at 3 April, 2020.
For up-to-date information, please visit the website of the Australian Energy Regulator.
The Australian Energy Regulator (AER) has released a statement of expectations of energy businesses: Protecting consumers and the energy market during COVID-19
The statement sets out 10 principles the Australian Government expect businesses to adhere to the maximum extent possible, which are aimed at ensuring the continued safe and reliable supply of energy to homes and businesses.
The statement aims to help people who are or will be affected by dramatic changes to their lives, businesses, income and working arrangements, and those of their friends, families and communities.
One of the key points in the statement is that energy is an essential service. The statement requests that retailers:
- Freeze disconnection of customers until at least 31 July, 2020.
- Be prepared to modify existing payment plans if a customer’s circumstances have changed.
- Offer customers who indicate they may be in financial stress a payment plan or hardship arrangement, regardless of whether the customer meets the ‘usual’ criteria for that assistance.
- Defer referrals of customers to debt collection agencies for recovery actions, or credit default listing until at least 31 July, 2020.
Energy retailers have responded positively and, in many cases, have declared changes in response to COVID-19, which align to the statement of expectations.
Key information from the big three retailers
AGL has extended payment terms and will suspend disconnections for customers in financial stress until 31 July 2020. Eligible customers may choose to apply for one of the following payment assistance options:
- Option A: Deferring payments until 31 July 2020 without risk of disconnection
- Option B: Sign up to a monthly instalment plan for payments to 31 July 2020.
On receiving an AGL bill, customers can fill in the form provided and choose from these options.
EnergyAustralia will help customers in financial stress who reach out for help by tailoring payment plans, hardship plans (EnergyAssist), providing payment extensions and providing advice on energy usage. The retailer will not disconnect residential customers in financial stress who have reached out for help.
Origin has declared:
- No disconnections for customers in financial stress until at least 31 July, 2020.
- No default listing for any customer who is having trouble paying.
- Pause to all late payment fees effective immediately
UCWB has looked at the COVID-19 responses provided by several other retailers (Simply Energy, Lumo, Red Energy, Alinta, Powershop, etc) and they all make mention of changes and their preparedness to work with effected customers.
Make contact with your retailer. If you are struggling, make contact, explain your circumstances and make a request, whether it’s a debt waiver, payment extension or change to your payment plan.
UCWB financial counselling service
Our financial counselling service is free, confidential and non-judgmental and available to anyone experiencing financial difficulty to help them stop worrying about bills and be in control of their money.
Our qualified and compassionate financial counsellors can people resolve money problems, no matter how big or small by working with them to manage their finances and achieve their goals.
They can also assist people to speak with creditors. All options are explored and people are provided with comprehensive information.
To contact a financial counsellor please ring 8245 7177 or send us an email.