Energy providers – Covid 19 response

The most important take-away message is this: 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.

The Australian Energy Regulator (AER) released last Friday a Statement of Expectations regarding energy retailers behaviour in the context of Covid-19. The Statement is pretty clear. The first point it makes is this: Energy is an essential service. The document outlines a number of expectations from government on protecting consumers who may be experiencing financial difficulties in this challenging time. Significantly, 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 that align to the AER’s Statement of Expectations. UCWB has put together key information from the big three retailers.

AGL

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, ticking one of these options. See their website for details and contact pathways: AGL website – Covid 19 response

EnergyAustralia

EnergyAustralia will help customers in financial stress who reach out for help – tailoring payment plans, hardship plans (EnergyAssist), providing payment extensions and advice on energy usage.  The retailer will not disconnect residential customers in financial stress who have reached out for help. For details and contact pathways: EnergyAustralia website – Covid 19 response

Origin Energy

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.

Origin Energy website – Covid 19 response

We have 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 customers affected by Covid-19.

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