COVID-19 has caused significant disruption to households in Victoria and has highlighted the need to ensure that people’s health is not put at risk because of barriers to accessing energy for appropriate heating.
Consumer Action Law Centre welcomes the opportunity to comment on the Essential Service Commission’s (ESC)Supporting energy customers through the coronavirus pandemic – Draft Decision.
We strongly support the draft decisions which propose to require retailers to support residential customers in a more efficient and timely manner. These measures should decrease the risk of households being denied or going without the energy they need. Other requirements in the Payment Difficulty Framework (PDF) should also be offered in a more timely way to strengthen the impact of the ESC’s proposals.
However, while the two draft decisions relating to supporting residential customers will help, more must be done to prevent households being disconnected. A significant gap in protections still lingers from the development of the PDF— people who face barriers to engaging with their retailer are put on a conveyor belt to disconnection. It is unacceptable to disconnect a household when little is known as to the health and safety risks this may pose.
A simple, publicly communicated moratorium on disconnections for non-payment is needed to reassure the public they can use the heating they need. Maintaining people’s health should be everyone’s priority.
Read our submission here (PDF) or below:200714 SUB - ESC COVID