The state’s energy regulator has finalised new guidelines to help monitor how energy businesses comply with new rules to assist customers having difficulties paying their bills.
The new rules, coming into effect in January 2019, require energy retailers to help customers before they get into serious debt by providing better access to flexible payment options and assistance.
Essential Services Commission director of energy, Sarah McDowell says the enhanced monitoring framework will give greater insight into whether the new customer protections are working.
“The new reporting requirements will give us more information so we can track how the energy companies are working to help customers.
“We will have more information about the number of customers who are getting help from their energy retailer, the amount of money they owe and the type of assistance they have received.
The guidelines are the latest step in implementing a new customer protection regime designed to address growing energy debt and disconnections.
Ms McDowell says disconnections peaked at 58,503 in 2013–14 prompting the Victorian Government to give the commission more powers to protect customers.
“While the number of disconnections has dropped slightly to just over 50,000 in 2016–17, that’s still more than 4,000 families and businesses every month,” she said.
“Updating the reporting obligations will shine a light on whether energy retailers are complying with the requirements and whether the new framework is helping customers,” she said.
This information will help inform the commission’s regulatory and enforcement work and our findings will be published in our Victorian energy market reports.
Timeline of changes to customer protections
Protecting Victorian energy consumers
Annual rate of disconnections peaks at 58,503 (electricity and gas)
Victorian Government requests commission to conduct an inquiry into energy retailers’ financial hardship programs
Government gives commission new powers to protect customers and increases payments for wrongful disconnections and introducing penalties for breaches of energy rules
Commission develops new payment difficulty framework introducing new rules requiring retailers to help customers avoid getting into debt and disconnection is only ever a measure of ‘last resort’. Retailers have 15 months to update systems to comply with the new rules.
1 July 2018
Debt threshold before a customer can be disconnected increased from $132 to $300.
30 July 2018
Commission updates reporting guidelines to increase transparency and inform regulatory oversight and enforcement.
1 January 2019
Retailers must be comply with and report against the new rules.