Your rights as an energy customer
Energy is an essential service and it is important that everyone can access it. Laws exist to protect you, and to provide consistent safeguards in terms of the sale of energy to customers.
If you live in the ACT, NSW, Queensland, South Australia or Tasmania, you're covered by the National Energy Customer Framework (NECF). In the Northern Territory, Victoria and Western Australia, energy consumers’ protections are provided through local legislation.
Common questions from consumers
I don’t think my meter is working—who do I call?
Under the NECF you have the right to arrange for your meter to be tested if you believe it is faulty. You should contact your retailer to make arrangements for a meter test. However, if the meter is found to be working correctly, you can be charged for the cost of the meter test. This cost may vary, so you should confirm the amount you may be charged before asking for a meter test.
My bill is based on an estimate—is this allowed?
Sometimes an energy bill will be estimated because a meter reader could not access the meter. As a customer, it's your responsibility to make sure your meter is accessible. You might not be there when the meter is scheduled to be read, so it is important that there is an accessible and clear path available.
Under the NECF, your retailer must issue you with a bill at least once every 3 months. If your bill is an estimate, it will be based on your previous consumption usage for a similar time period. Once the retailer has obtained an actual meter read, it is their responsibility to adjust the next bill accordingly—this may involve a credit to your account if the bill was overestimated or a further payment request if the bill was underestimated.
I think my bill is incorrect—what can I do?
Contact your retailer as soon as possible. Your retailer must review your bill if you request them to do this. If you're not satisfied after that has happened, you can talk to the energy ombudsman in your state or territory.
The price of my energy has increased since my last bill—is this allowed?
Depending on the type of energy offer you're on, a retailer can increase the price (tariff rate) of your energy. Your retailer must tell you about this price increase 5 business days before the change (except in Queensland, where they need to tell you at least 10 days before any price increase applies).
If you're unhappy with the new tariff rates you can shop around for a different offer that is more suitable to your needs and usage. However, if you've signed a time-based contract, some retailers may charge a fee for exiting it early: make sure you know the details of your existing contract before you make arrangements to switch to a new offer or a new retailer.
I've received a disconnection notice—what should I do?
You can receive a disconnection notice for a range of reasons, but most commonly it will be triggered by a failure to pay your bill on time.
Under the NECF there are restrictions on when disconnections can occur. For example, you cannot be disconnected during a protected period, such as a weekend or a public holiday. There are also additional provisions that limit disconnections for customers experiencing hardship and for premises registered as having life support equipment onsite.
If you receive a disconnection notice, contact your retailer immediately to discuss your options. Their contact details will be on your disconnection notice.
What do I do if I'm having difficulty paying my bill?
Some customers may be eligible for support from their retailer if experiencing financial hardship. Under the NECF, all retailers must have a hardship policy. You can request a copy of your retailer’s hardship policy – by law, they must provide this to you upon request.
If you're unable to pay your bill on time or had difficulty paying a bill in the past, contact your retailer immediately to discuss how they can help you. Your retailer may be able to:
- extend your bill’s due date
- allow you to make weekly or fortnightly payments.
- waive late fees
- check if you are on the most suitable energy plan
If you are a Centrelink customer, you can pay your energy bill direct from your Centrelink payment using a program called Centrepay.
The National Debt Helpline is a financial counselling service that provides information, support and advocacy to people in financial difficulty. It is a free, independent and confidential service. Phone 1800 007 007, 9.30am to 4.00pm, Monday to Friday.
The MoneySmart budget planner can also help with managing costs.
Can I get financial help to pay my bill?
Financial help for energy usage is generally the responsibility of state and territory governments. Often medical energy rebates are provided to customers with specific medical needs or to customers on a pension or other government payments.
If you’re experiencing financial difficulties it’s worth checking to see if you qualify for a rebate on your bill. To find out more information on available assistance, contact your state or territory government department responsible for energy. You should also contact your energy retailer as they may be able to provide additional help.
You can also use our rebates and assistance searcher. It has up-to-date summaries of all energy and sustainability rebates offered by Australian state and territory governments.
I don’t understand or disagree with something my retailer has done—what can I do?
If you believe your retailer has made an error or you're unsure of anything related to your bill or contract, your first action should be to contact the retailer to try to resolve the matter. Their contact details will be on your bill.
All energy customers have the right to contact the ombudsman responsible for energy matters in each state or territory. If you're unable to resolve an issue with your retailer or you're unhappy with the outcome, the ombudsman, a free and independent dispute resolution service, may be able to assist you.
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