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 New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia, Tasmania or the Australian Capital Territory, you are covered by the National Energy Customer Framework (NECF). In Victoria, Northern Territory and Western Australia energy consumers’ protections are provided through local legislation.
Common questions from consumers about their rights
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?
Often an energy bill will be estimated because a meter reader could not access the meter. As a customer, it is your responsibility to make sure your meter is accessible. You should know where your meter is located at your premises. 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 three 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 are still not happy 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 are on, a retailer can increase the price (tariff rate) of your energy. Your retailer must tell you about this price increase no later than the date of your next bill (except in Queensland, where they need to tell you at least 10 days before any price increase applies).
If you are 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 have 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 have 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, you should contact your retailer immediately to discuss your options. Their contact details will be available on your disconnection notice.
What do I do if I am having difficulty paying my bill?
Some customers may be eligible for support from their retailer if they are experiencing financial hardship. Under the NECF, all retailers must have a hardship policy. If you think you might not be able to pay your bill on time or you have had difficulty paying a bill in the past, you should contact your retailer as early as possible to discuss how they can help you. You can request a copy of your retailer’s hardship policy – by law, they must provide this to you upon request.
Am I eligible for assistance in paying my bill or an energy rebate?
Rebates for energy usage are the responsibility of state and territory governments. Often rebates are provided to customers with specific medical needs (sometimes called “medical cooling” customers) or to customers on a pension or other benefits. If you are experiencing payment difficulties it is worth checking if you qualify for a rebate on your bill.
To find out more information on what assistance you can receive, please contact your state or territory government department responsible for energy. You can also use the rebate searcher on YourEnergySavings.gov.au. This has up-to-date summaries of all energy and sustainability rebates offered by the Australian Government and state and territory governments.
I don’t understand or I disagree with something my retailer has done—what can I do?
If you believe your retailer may have made an error or you are unsure of anything related to your bill or contract, your first action should be to contact the retailer directly 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 are unable to resolve an issue with your retailer directly, or you are unhappy with the outcome, the ombudsman, a free and independent dispute resolution service, may be able to assist you.