This is Consumer Action Law Centre’s (Consumer Action) second Energy Assistance Report, following our previous report published in July 2019.
The original report explored whether the introduction of Victoria’s Payment Difficulty Framework (PDF) had improved the hardship assistance energy companies were providing to customers faced with difficulty paying their bills. We found that while disconnections for non-payment and energy debt had decreased since the introduction of the PDF, the framework was being inconsistently applied, meaning many Victorians were missing out on assistance that would help them manage their energy bills.
This follow-on report investigates whether these trends have continued, considers the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and related supports, and identifies gaps in hardship assistance that remain more than two years after the introduction of the PDF.
The current report reviews 18 months of calls to our financial counsellors between July 2019 to December 2020. As was done in our previous report, two days of calls from each month were selected to form the sample for this report. Of the 808 calls in the sample where financial counselling advice was provided, 133 people mentioned energy issues. Case notes from the 133 energy-related calls were reviewed in detail to identify common issues people were facing with their energy retailers.
Overall, there appears to be continued improvement in the hardship assistance customers are receiving from their retailers. There are proportionately fewer disconnections in our current sample compared to our last report, with only two cases of disconnection for non-payment recorded across the sample. However, it is difficult to make comparison between the two reports.
Reports of energy issues in our sample are disproportionately higher among people living alone, single parents, people in private rentals, and women. People calling about energy issues in our sample are also more likely to report a ‘flagged vulnerability’ to financial counsellors, things such as experiencing mental health issues, or having recently lost their job. From our findings, and despite the improvements noted, it is clear that further action is needed to improve outcomes for people facing difficulty paying their energy bills.
Read the full report, and the data from which it was created and recommendations below.
The full report (PDF).210810_Energy Assistance Report_2nd Edition_V5
Read the data.