Water businesses lift game on helping customers pay bills
16 December 2016
A new report has shown water businesses have lifted their game since 2012, with around 20 per cent more households accessing support programs to help pay their water bills.
The Essential Services Commission has released a third and final report looking into Melbourne’s water corporations used a new allowance introduced in 2012-13 to improve customer awareness of, and access to, support measures like payment extensions and instalment plans.
The Commission’s water director, Marcus Crudden says the 2012-13 price determination allowed the metropolitan water businesses to collect an extra $5.25 million to improve support programs to help customers manage the impact of price increases.
“The report shows since 2012-13, the number of customers using payment extensions has increased by 22 per cent while the number of people using instalment plans has gone up 20 per cent.
Mr Crudden says another key improvement over the past four years has been an overall increase in the number of people on hardship programs meeting their agreed payment plans.
“Overall, the percentage of customers who were able to meet their debts improved by 20 per cent indicating the businesses are getting better at working with customers to come up with realistic payment plans.
However, despite the overall increase in the use of support programs, Mr Crudden says early identification of people who are having difficulty paying their bills remains an issue with some businesses.
“After three years of reporting, some customers aren’t signed up to support programs until they have relatively large amounts owing, sometimes up to two years behind in their water bills.
“We know that early intervention and flexible payment arrangements are the key to helping customers who are experiencing difficulties so there’s still work to be done in this area.
This is the third and final report of its kind however the Commission will continue to collect performance data on these issues to ensure customers are aware of the help that is available.
The report shows that since 2012-13, water businesses have improved programs for people from culturally and linguistically diverse communities and Aboriginal communities as well as those who are vulnerable to hardship including the ageing and families with young children.