The Essential Services Commission’s urban and rural water codes specify service standards and conditions for Victoria’s water businesses, including rules for billing, payment difficulty and debt collection. They also set out minimum service quality and reliability standards.
The commission’s water director Marcus Crudden says the proposals would improve protections for water customers, particularly those requiring financial support.
“A key focus of our review is to ensure the current customer service codes continue to provide strong protection and support for customers experiencing payment difficulty,” said Mr Crudden.
“Over the past two years we have seen the importance of early, proactive communication and tailored support. We want to ensure the codes reflect what has been learnt over this time and provide consistent standards across the state.”
Mr Crudden said the codes will continue to allow for debt management actions by water businesses, but that customer support should remain the priority.
“Water businesses should continue to focus primarily on maximising opportunities for customers to access early support that best suits their individual circumstances, with measures such as water restrictions and legal action treated as a last resort.”
Other proposed updates include strengthening customer communication requirements, reflecting changes in technology and communication channels, and clarifying the interest application and debt management activities by water businesses.
The proposals have been informed by consultation with the industry and community stakeholders, including stakeholder forums and a community panel.
The commission is now seeking feedback via Engage Victoria, and a forum to be held in July, with consultation closing on 26 July 2022.
The codes will be finalised in September, with changes proposed to take effect from 1 January 2023.