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New entitlements for customers anticipating or facing payment difficulty

The commission has made changes to the Energy Retail Code that will take effect from 1 January 2019, to provide new entitlements for customers who are at risk of falling into debt and being disconnected.

The new entitlements are in response to the findings of the hardship inquiry Supporting Customers, Avoiding Labels and changes to Victoria’s energy industry legislation which gave the commission a new objective:

To promote protections for customers, including in relation to assisting customers who are facing payment difficulties.

The new framework was developed in consultation with stakeholders and is detailed in the Payment Difficulty Framework: final decision.

Accompanying the final decision and the updated Energy Retail Code is a draft guidance note to assist retailers to interpret their new obligations. This guidance is now open for stakeholder consultation.

Timeline

10 October – Release of final decision and Energy Retail Code (version 12)
10 October – Release of draft guidance note for consultation
24 October – Stakeholder forum on draft guidance note
8 November – Submission period closes
End of 2017 – Release of guidance note

Consultation

We invite written submissions from interested stakeholders on this guidance note. We will consider all comments when finalising the document.

Submissions are open until 5pm Wednesday 8 November 2017.

To make a submission, please email energy.submissions@esc.vic.gov.au, or post to:

Essential Services Commission
Level 37, 2 Lonsdale Street
Melbourne VIC 3000

Submissions will be published on the Essential Services Commission website, unless requested otherwise.

Background

In February 2016, the commission completed its inquiry into energy hardship. The inquiry found:

  • customers need assistance that varies with the type of payment difficulty they are facing
  • labelling customers as ‘hardship customers’ is a barrier to accessing assistance
  • customers do not know what assistance is available
  • eligibility for assistance is very largely at retailers’ discretion
  • not all customers facing payment difficulty receive assistance
  • the assistance provided varies widely between retailers
  • some retailers have better practices than others
  • assistance provided is often too little too late
  • manageable payment arrangements provide the greatest assistance to customers
  • retailer hardship programs are not preventing debt escalation
  • there is no widespread non-compliance with hardship policies and procedures
  • current hardship policies are unenforceable because they afford absolute retailer discretion.

The commission’s final report of the inquiry, Supporting Customers, Avoiding Labels was released in March 2016.

Associated Documents


Payment difficulty framework: final decision (7)
10 Oct 2017 Payment difficulty framework: stakeholder presentation
10 Oct 2017 Fact sheet: new energy rules
10 Oct 2017 Fact sheet: top 10 energy rule changes
10 Oct 2017 Fact sheet: energy customer entitlements
10 Oct 2017 Energy Retail Code (version 12) – tracked changes from version 11
10 Oct 2017 Consultant report: new framework for customers facing payment difficulty – assessment of the retailers’ costs (ACIL Allen)
10 Oct 2017 Consultant report: payment difficulty framework – assessment of customer impacts (KPMG)
Payment difficulty framework: new draft decision (12)
02 Jun 2017 Payment Difficulties Framework: Public forum on 1 June 2017 – presentation slides
29 May 2017 Payment Difficulties Framework: Stakeholder forum on 29 May 2017 – presentation by Dr Ron Ben-David
16 May 2017 Payment Difficulty Framework: new draft decision – consultation schedule
16 May 2017 Payment Difficulty Framework: new draft decision – ACIL Allen retailer information request
16 May 2017 Payment Difficulty Framework: draft Energy Retail Code version 12
09 May 2017 Payment Difficulty Framework: new draft decision – executive summary
09 May 2017 Media release: new customer protections for energy customers
09 May 2017 Payment Difficulty Framework: new draft decision – ACIL Allen report
09 May 2017 Payment Difficulty Framework: new draft decision – KPMG report
09 May 2017 Payment Difficulty Framework: new draft decision
(21) Submissions
09 May 2017 Payment Difficulties Framework: new draft decision – presentation by Dr Ron Ben-David
09 May 2017 Payment Difficulty Framework: new draft decision – stakeholder forum presentation slides
Payment difficulty framework: first draft decision (6)
09 Feb 2017 Record of Decision – New Draft Decision on Safety Net for Victorian Energy Consumers Facing Payment Difficulties
21 Oct 2016 Payment Difficulties Safety Net Draft Decision
(19) Submissions
21 Oct 2016 Payment Difficulties Safety Net – Draft Customer Advice Manual
21 Oct 2016 Media Release: Payment Difficulties Safety Net
31 Aug 2016 Payment Difficulties Newsletter – August 2016
22 Mar 2016 Energy Hardship Inquiry Final Report: Supporting Customers, Avoiding Labels