The number of Victorian households being disconnected for unpaid energy bills has fallen by 53 per cent since changes to energy rules came into effect on 1 January this year.
According to the latest report from the Essential Services Commission, energy disconnections fell more than half between January and June 2019, compared to the same time last year, consolidating a turnaround from the previous year.
Commission energy director Sarah McDowell says 15,545 fewer customers were cut off for failing to pay their bills between January and June this year.
“The fall has coincided with the introduction of new rules aimed at ensuring customers get meaningful help to avoid falling into a debt-disconnection cycle,” she said.
Ms McDowell says there were 36,265 disconnections in 2018–19, a fall of 35 per cent.
“This suggests retailers are doing more to meet their obligation to help customers’ who are struggling to pay their bills which was the primary objective of the new framework,” she said.
Ms McDowell says it’s a very different picture to the previous year when disconnections increased by 20 per cent.
“After falling sharply in 2016–17 during our inquiry into energy hardship, disconnections rose in 2017–18 ahead of the introduction of the new rules at the beginning of this year,” she said.
Under the payment difficulty framework, customers who are struggling to pay their energy bills are entitled to help from their energy retailer including flexible payment arrangements, realistic plans to repay energy debt and information on how to lower energy bills.
The latest quarterly energy market update from the commission also shows:
the success of a public information campaign designed to help Victorians understand their energy rights
a drop in wrongful disconnections compared to last year
some retailers are offering higher feed-in tariffs than the minimum mandated by the commission.