As more people face the prospect of losing work due to the COVID-19 health crisis, community organisations are calling on banks, telcos, energy retailers, and rental providers to help people stay connected to essential services during this time.
Since releasing an initial statement earlier this week, more than forty community organisations and service providers have joined the call for governments and companies to commit to three key measures:
- Keep people connected. Companies should continue to offer their services without interruption, including energy, telecommunications, banking and insurance.
- Freeze debt collection and bankruptcy proceedings. People shouldn’t be evicted or be hassled by debt collectors during this time. Lenders should consider a freeze on loan repayments.
- Waive penalty and late fees. No one should pay extra if they’re struggling to pay bills on time, including additional interest charges.
“It’s critical that during a health crisis people remain connected to essential services such as housing, electricity, water and telecommunications,” says Jake Lilley, Senior Policy Officer with Consumer Action Law Centre.
“Access to these services has huge implications on the health and wellbeing of people in our community.
“We’ve already heard anecdotal evidence of people having their power cut off when they are feeling unwell. This is completely unacceptable. As this health crisis escalates, this will only get worse.”
Consumer Action Law Centre is keeping track of commitments made by companies and governments to ensure people remain connected to these services.
Yesterday, the Queensland Government announced that publicly-owned Ergon and Energex would keep Queenslanders connected and stop disconnections for households experiencing hardship due to the health crisis.
“It’s welcome news that Ergon and Energex customers won’t need to deal with the added stress that their electricity might be cut off at any moment, in addition to the stress of dealing with an unprecedented health crisis,” said Jake Lilley.
“We are calling on every single energy company providing power or gas to Australians to urgently follow suit and publicly commit to keeping communities connected.
“This compassion should also be extended to people relying on telecommunications services to keep in touch with friends and relatives who might be at risk. The same goes for housing providers. No one should be facing eviction during a health crisis, especially when people are being asked to self-isolate,” he said.
Media contact: Alycia Gawthorne, Campaigns & Advocacy Adviser | 0413 299 567 | firstname.lastname@example.org