The commission has made changes to the Energy Retail Code that will take effect from 1 January 2019, to provide new entitlements for customers who are at risk of falling into debt and being disconnected.
The new entitlements are in response to the findings of the hardship inquiry Supporting Customers, Avoiding Labels and changes to Victoria’s energy industry legislation which gave the commission a new objective:
To promote protections for customers, including in relation to assisting customers who are facing payment difficulties.
The new framework was developed in consultation with stakeholders and is detailed in the Payment Difficulty Framework: final decision.
10 October – Release of final decision and Energy Retail Code (version 12)
10 October – Release of draft guidance note for consultation
24 October – Stakeholder forum on draft guidance note
8 November – Submission period closes
End of 2017 – Release of guidance note
Consultations are now closed.
In February 2016, the commission completed its inquiry into energy hardship. The inquiry found:
- customers need assistance that varies with the type of payment difficulty they are facing
- labelling customers as ‘hardship customers’ is a barrier to accessing assistance
- customers do not know what assistance is available
- eligibility for assistance is very largely at retailers’ discretion
- not all customers facing payment difficulty receive assistance
- the assistance provided varies widely between retailers
- some retailers have better practices than others
- assistance provided is often too little too late
- manageable payment arrangements provide the greatest assistance to customers
- retailer hardship programs are not preventing debt escalation
- there is no widespread non-compliance with hardship policies and procedures
- current hardship policies are unenforceable because they afford absolute retailer discretion.
The commission’s final report of the inquiry, Supporting Customers, Avoiding Labels was released in March 2016.
- Payment difficulty framework: final decision (7)
- Payment difficulty framework: new draft decision (12)
- Payment difficulty framework: first draft decision (6)