On 1 January 2016, Victoria’s energy industry legislation was amended to include a new objective for the Essential Services Commission:
To promote protections for customers, including in relation to assisting customers who are facing payment difficulties.
The Payment Difficulties Safety Net Project involves working with industry and other stakeholders to design a new regulatory framework for assisting customers experiencing difficulty paying their energy bills.
On 9 February 2017, the Commission released its decision to proceed to issue a New Draft Decision on the Payment Difficulties Safety Net. This decision was taken in light of additional information and stakeholder input provided following the Commission’s Draft Decision on the Safety Net For Victorian Energy Consumers Facing Payment Difficulty, October 2016.
On 21 October 2016, the Commission released its Draft Decision on the Payment Difficulties Safety Net. This draft decision included two appendices: the Customer Advice Manual and amendments to the Energy Retail Code. The Commission received 20 submissions, including one confidential submission.
In February 2016, the Commission completed its inquiry into energy hardship. The inquiry found that energy company hardship programs are not preventing customers from building up large debts, or being disconnected. Customers are not getting the assistance they need and many of the current rules cannot be enforced. The Commission’s final report of the inquiry, Supporting Customers, Avoiding Labels was released in March 2016.