Amidst worrying reports of rising energy prices, Consumer Action is calling for energy retailers to do more to help families and people who fall into difficultly with their bill payments, leading to debt and ultimately disconnection.
The call comes as the Essential Services Commission (ESC) released its findings on the implementation of the Payment Difficulty Framework (PDF), which should be an important step towards having improved protections for Victorians struggling with energy affordability.
“I am very concerned that Victoria had more than 3500 energy disconnections in February*” said Gerard Brody, CEO Consumer Action.
“All reports suggest energy prices are on the rise, so it is critical that Victoria’s energy laws are working to protect people because energy in the home is an essential service.”
The PDF offers nation-leading protections for people struggling with energy debt, but the data released by the ESC reveals there are still improvements that can be made to ensure better outcomes for Victorians.
“It is particularly concerning that more than 50% of people who were disconnected had not previously received assistance from their energy retailer. Disconnection is massively harmful for people’s health and wellbeing.
“This help is even more essential as we head into winter when people need to stay warm,” Mr Brody said.
While retailers have improved in how they support customers having trouble paying their bills, there are still gaps and inconsistencies that need to be addressed.
“Through our financial counselling service, we continue to hear from people who have large energy debts, are burdened with unaffordable payment plans, and haven’t been told about concessions and grants available to help with energy costs.
“We are calling on the ESC to outline next steps for the review and look forward to working with them to strengthen the framework to ensure all Victorians having difficulty with their energy bills get the help they need.”
Media contact: Mark Pearce, Media and Communications Adviser, 0413 299 567, firstname.lastname@example.org