Health and Economic Pressures of COVID-19
With the Australian Federal Government stepping up efforts to reduce the spread of COVID-19 throughout our community, an increasing number of your Customers are choosing work from or stay at home. Sadly, the health and economic emergency we are now witnessing is likely to result in many people experiencing greater financial hardship.
I want to reach out to you with an important message about exempt on-sellers’ obligations to Customers. It is possible that your community will use more energy in the weeks and months ahead as more Customers stay at home due to self-isolation, social distancing, reduce work hours or unemployment. We are writing to Customers to provide suggestions that may help them keep their energy usage and costs down. This simple message will remind Customers that more time at home could mean higher bills. We care about your Customers and we do not want them to experience any unexpected increase in expenditure, especially during these challenging times.
Customers within exempt embedded networks are entitled to a limited number of consumer protections. Where customers experience difficulties in paying their bills, the on-selling Body Corporate is required to offer customers flexible payment options, such as a payment plan.
Condition 9 of the AER (Retail) Exempt Selling Guideline 2018 states that on-sellers of energy must provide a payment plan to customers experiencing financial difficulties. Where a customer informs the on-seller that they are unable to pay energy bills due to financial difficulty, the on-seller must:
a. offer the customer a payment plan;
b. direct the customer to the Australian government energy efficiency website or another information resource with energy efficiency advice
c. ensure that the customer is aware of relevant government or non- government energy rebates, concessions and relief schemes
d. not charge the customer a late payment fee
e. not charge the customer a security deposit
It is important that we ensure Customers are treated respectfully and with compassion at all times, but even more so during national crisis.
Our team works hard to ensure debts are recovered as quickly as possible. In the coming weeks, we expect to see more customers unable to pay their bills for reasons beyond their control. It is important that you prepare for an increase in debt so that you are able to meet your energy supply obligations.
We are in this together. As we learn more about the economic and health impact of COVID-19, we are working with our partners and suppliers to develop a community support program for vulnerable Customers and the Body Corporate. We will share details of this program with you once we have more information.
In recent weeks, we have been improving the capacity of our systems and putting in place measures to enable our employees to work from home should the need arise. These measures ensure our employees remain safe, do not contribute to the spread of COVID-19, and allow us to operate normally for as long as we need.
Whilst change can be unsettling, the Australian energy systems are designed to withstand far greater disruption. Your utility services will operate normally and are unaffected by the current pandemic.
It may take us longer than usual to answer Customer calls whilst our teams adapt to their new working environment. We appreciate your patience and understanding. We are asking customers to use online services for non-urgent enquiries and bill payments so that we can keep our phone lines free for vulnerable Customers.
Executive Manager | Energy