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?
A retailer may bill you based on an estimated energy usage where they are unable to read or obtain your meter data. This can happen when a meter reader is unable to access your meter. As a consumer, it is your responsibility to make sure your meter is accessible. You should take care to know where your meter is located at your premise and ensure there is a clear path to your meter.
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 over-estimated or a further payment request if the bill was under-estimated.
Under the NECF you are also able to provide your retailer with your own meter reading before the due date on your bill. Your retailer must provide clear guidance on how you can perform your own meter read. Once you provide your own reading, your retailer must promptly provide you with an adjusted bill based on the reading you provided. If your retailer chooses to reject your meter read, they must explain to you the specific reasons for not accepting it.
If your premises uses a smart meter, the need for estimated readings will be reduced. However, there may be some limited circumstances in which an estimate is used.
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.
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.
Energy and water ombudsman
ACT Civil and Administrative Tribunal - Call 02 6207 7740
Energy & Water Ombudsman NSW - Call 1800 246 545
Ombudsman NT - Call 1800 806 380
Energy & Water Ombudsman Queensland - Call 1800 662 837
Energy & Water Ombudsman SA - Call 1800 665 565
Ombudsman Tasmania - Call 1800 001 170
Energy and Water Ombudsman Victoria - Call 1800 500 509
Energy and Water Ombudsman Western Australia - Call 1800 754 004
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