Households and small businesses struggling to keep up with energy bills will continue to be protected by the Australian Energy Regulator (AER) as energy debt increases during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The AER today released its Statement of Expectations 3, which extends protections until the end of March 2021 for customers in financial stress in the face of COVID-19.
AER Chair Clare Savage emphasised the need for retailers to ensure that customers currently on deferred debt arrangements are transferred to sustainable payment plans or hardship programs where appropriate.
‘We want to see retailers taking proactive action to assist their customers so it’s critical that customers don’t ignore the calls, emails, texts and letters from their retailers.
‘If you are worried about paying your bill, talk to your retailer about your energy debt even if you can’t afford to pay anything right now. They will work with you and you will not be disconnected.’
Since March the AER’s Statement of Expectations has been working to protect consumers with 37,000 fewer disconnections and 154,000 fewer referrals for debt collection compared to the same period (April to end of September) last year. At the same time, complaints to ombudsmen schemes has significantly reduced across most jurisdictions.
The Hon Angus Taylor MP, Minister for Energy and Emissions Reduction, said that it is vital that households and businesses receive support to deal with the economic repercussions of COVID-19.
'The government recognises the ongoing impact of COVID-19 on Australian households and businesses and keeping the lights on isn’t something we want people to be worried about,' the Minister said.
'For anyone who is experiencing hardship or facing difficulties in paying their bills, I urge them to contact their retailer to discuss the support that is available. It is important that customers who can pay their bills continue to do so, in order for support to be provided where it is most needed. Retailers and consumers must work together.'