The state’s economic regulator today released updated water industry standards, strengthening support and protections for Victorian consumers, particularly those facing financial difficulties.
The Essential Services Commission’s water industry standards set out the minimum service requirements water businesses must meet, covering billing, payment difficulty support, and limits on debt collection. They also set out minimum standards of service quality and reliability.
The commission’s executive director of pricing and regulation, Marcus Crudden, says the new standards were developed after extensive consultation with water businesses, customers and other stakeholders.
"We heard early contact and tailored support for customers having trouble paying their bills were key factors in helping them to manage payments and avoid a debt building up,” Mr Crudden said.
"The new standards prioritise proactive and sensitive communication by water businesses with their customers and help to ensure debt recovery action through water restrictions and legal action remains a last resort.”
Mr Crudden said a proactive industry approach in response to the coronavirus pandemic informed the changes to the industry standards.
“Throughout the pandemic we saw water businesses ramp up their early support for households and small businesses and the new standards incorporate what’s been learnt during this time,” he said.
“They also provide for consistency across the state so customers can be assured they have similar access to support no matter where they live.”
The new industry standards come into effect on 1 March 2023.