Everyone experiences trouble paying energy bills once in a while. And it’s not always bad news. Energy retailers in New South Wales, South Australia, Tasmania, Queensland, and the ACT are required to assist consumers experiencing difficulties paying off their bills under the National Energy Retail Law.
If you’re struggling to pay your gas and electricity bills, contact your retailer as soon as possible to avoid paying extra fees, such as late payment fees, or worse, having your supply disconnected.
Extension of time to pay
Contact your retailer and ask for more time to pay your bill but Inform them about the circumstances and agree to a new payment date or a payment plan.
Financial Hardship Programs
Retailers need to know about your financial struggle before you can use their program.
They might be able to:
- Give you more time to pay
- Offer your payment plan – to pay small amounts regularly(fortnightly)
- Help you work out if you can get government concessions
- Tell you about financial counseling services
- Waive late fees
- Give you tips on using less energy
- Offer energy plans that suit you
If you actively participate in this program and your retailer cannot disconnect your service.
You can contact the ombudsman if:
- You disagree with your retailer about your bill and can’t solve it
- Your retailer won’t let you use their hardship program
- You can’t agree about how to pay the money back
You agree to pay small amounts regularly – fortnightly or installments. You and your retailer will agree on an amount you will pay each time. Your retailer must offer you a payment plan unless you have already been on two or more plans in the last year and did not keep up with them. You can have the payment plan option even if you are not in your retailer’s hardship program.
Your retailer can look at:
- how much you owe
- how much were your bills over the next 12 months
- how much you can afford to pay
Make sure you can afford the amount you agree to pay back each time. If you don’t keep up with your payments they can cut your power off.
If you don’t know where to start, contact a financial counselor for help.
Sustainable Payment Plans Framework
The Australian Energy Regulator (AER) worked with a range of stakeholders to develop sustainable Payment Plans Framework. This is designed to help you and your provider agree to a payment plan you can afford and that will help you settle your dues.
Some retailers have agreed to follow the Sustainable Payments Plan Framework that covers residential customers.
The Framework has been adopted by the following retailers:
- Alinta Energy
- Aurora Energy
- Click Energy
- Energy Locals
- Enova Energy
- Ergon Energy Queensland
- Locality Planning Energy
- Metered Energy Holdings
- Mojo Power
- Origin Energy
- People Energy
- Pooled Energy
- Simply Energy
For any concerns with the payment plans, you should contact and discuss with your retailer. If the problem is not fixed, you can contact your local energy Ombudsman.
If you get a Centrelink payment, you can pay your energy bill directly from your Centrelink payment. If you are on your retailer’s hardship program, your retailer must let you pay your bills using Centrepay.
To find out more, ask your energy retailer or go to the Centrelink website.
Getting advice from a financial counselor
Financial counselors offer free, confidential and independent service to help people with financial problems. They can help people learn to manage their finances better.
You can call the National Debt Helpline at 1800 007 007 to talk to a free phone financial counselor from anywhere in Australia (minimum opening hours are 9.30am – 4.30pm Monday to Friday).
You can also find a free face-to-face financial counselor.
What should you do if your energy supply has been disconnected?
Energy supply disconnection should be the last option of your energy provider. There are several rules to consider before it takes this action, like providing you with reminders and disconnection notice.
The retailer cannot disconnect your service if you are actively participating in their hardship program or sticking with the agreed payment plan.
If disconnected, you have to pay reconnection fee and some retailers require a security deposit.
For more information about energy, disconnections click here.
Act now before your bills pile up. Check on our ways to help you save on your energy bills.