Strengthening energy customers protections for people with payment difficulties

People in Queensland who are having difficulty paying their energy bills may soon find it easier to get on retailer’s hardship programs.

On 29 March, the Australian Energy Regulator (AER), the body responsible for ensuring retailers have fit-for-purpose hardship policies, published a new guideline and set of standardised statements which all retailers must include in their hardship policies. Retailers have until 2 October to comply with this new guideline.

A key takeaway from the guideline is that, for the first time, a retailer’s hardship policy must not include unreasonable conditions that exclude a customer experiencing payment difficulties due to hardship from entry or re-entry to a retailer’s hardship program.

Customer protections, including hardship policies, are not working, which is why QCOSS has been advocating for better outcomes for customers having payment difficulties. We engaged in all stages of this consultation process and made three submissions, as well as presenting at four workshops by the AER.

While there are still areas for improvement, QCOSS wants to take this opportunity to ensure all customers, consumers and community advocates are aware people have rights if they cannot pay their bills and; what to do to activate these rights.

If you would like more details, please read our submissions below.

Submission to Australian Energy Regulator (AER) on hardship guidelines (March 2019)

Submission to Department of Natural Resources, Mines and Energy’s review of the National Energy Retail Law in Queensland (March 2019)

AER Customer Hardship Policy Guideline (March 2019)

Submission to Australian Energy Regulator (AER) on draft standard statements for inclusion in hardship guidelines (December 2018)

Australian Energy Market Commission (AEMC) submission strengthening protections for customers in hardship (October 2018)