January 2, 2019

Residential Customer Hardship Policy

We understand that energy is an essential service for every household, so disconnection will have significant implications. We want to avoid this wherever possible.

We understand that there can be times when our residential customers intend to pay their energy bills but, through no fault of their own, may be struggling to pay them by the due date. We accept the general principle that disconnection of an essential service will be the last resort which should only be used when all other options for payment of bills have failed.

This policy outlines the minimum standards we will adopt to identify residential customers who are experiencing payment difficulties due to financial hardship and assist customers to better manage their energy bills so that the risk of disconnection is reduced or eliminated.

General training in this policy is part of induction and ongoing training for all staff and contractors working in our retail energy supply business. More detailed training is made available for people actively involved in managing this policy.

The policy can be downloaded from our website or we can send it to you by contacting us directly by phone or email.


Information we will make available to you
If you have not paid a bill by its pay-by date and you contact us, we will advise you about the assistance available to you.

If you have not paid a bill by its pay-by date and you have arrears of more than $55 (inclusive of GST) we will contact you within 21 business days after that pay-by-date to advise you about the assistance available to you.

We will provide you with at least 6 business days to consider the information given to you. In this time, you can request further information or put forward a payment proposal for us to consider.


Standard assistance
We will make the following types of standard assistance available to you:
(a) making payments of an equal amount over a specified period;
(b) options for making payments at different intervals;
(c) paying for energy use in advance.


Tailored assistance available to you
If your account is in arrears, we can provide you with tailored assistance including:
(1) repayment of arrears over not more than 2 years by payments at regular intervals of up to one month;


(2) advice about payment options that would enable you to repay your arrears over not more than 2 years;


(3) specific advice about the likely cost of your future energy use and how this cost may be lowered;


(4) specific advice about any government and non-government assistance (including Utility Relief Grants and energy concessions) available to help you meet their energy costs;


(5) practical assistance to help you lower their energy costs including:
(a) the tariff that is most likely to minimise your energy costs, based on our knowledge of your pattern of energy use and payment history;
(b) practical assistance to help you reduce your use of energy, based on your pattern of energy use and on the circumstances of where you live, provided there is scope for action to be taken for that purpose.
(i) If you are not meeting your responsibility to implement this practical
assistance, we will contact you and work with you to identify an implementation timeframe.
(ii) Assistance will not include the provision of a supply capacity control product.
(iii) Assistance may include the provision of an energy audit for your premise. We will discuss with you at the time the scale and cost (if any) of an energy audit.
(iv) Assistance may include flexible options for the purchase or supply of
replacement electrical equipment. We will discuss with you at the time any
costs and payment options involved associated with this form of assistance.
(c) information about how you are progressing towards lowering your energy costs given at sufficient intervals for you to be able to adequately assess that progress;


(6) an initial period of at least 6 months during which:
(a) repayment of your arrears is put on hold; and
(b) you pay less than the full cost of your on-going energy use while working to lower that cost.


(7) If you can pay the full cost of your energy use, we will make the following forms of assistance available to you:
(a) repayment of arrears over not more than 2 years by payments at regular intervals of up to one month;
(b) advice about payment options that would enable you to repay their arrears over not more than 2 years;
(c) specific advice about the likely cost of your future energy use and how this cost may be lowered;
(d) specific advice about any government and non-government assistance (including Utility Relief Grants and energy concessions) available to help you meet your energy costs.


(8) If you cannot pay the full cost of your energy use, we will make the following forms of assistance available to you:
(a) specific advice about the likely cost of your future energy use and how this cost may be lowered;
(b) specific advice about any government and non-government assistance (including Utility Relief Grants and energy concessions) available to help you meet their energy costs;
(c) Advice regarding:
(i) the energy supply cost arrangements that are most likely to minimise your energy costs, based on our knowledge of your pattern of energy use and payment history; and
(ii) reducing your use of energy, based on your pattern of energy use and on the circumstances of where you are located, provided there is scope for action to be taken for that purpose; and
(iii) how you are progressing towards lowering your energy costs given at sufficient intervals to enable you to adequately assess that progress;
(d) an initial period of at least 6 months during which the repayment of your arrears will be put on hold; and your payments will be less than the full cost of your on-going energy use.
(i) We may extend this assistance for an additional 6 months if this will assist you to continue to lower the cost of your energy use.
(ii) At the end of this period (including any extension to the period), you will be entitled to access the assistance detailed in section (8) above.
(iii) If you fail to make a payment towards the cost of your on-going energy use by the date on which it was payable, we will contact you to discuss varying the amount payable, or the frequency of those payments, or both, to give you more time to lower your energy costs.
(e) We may add any amount unpaid for energy use to your arrears.


(9) We may suspend assistance after contacting you if:
(a) you have refused or failed to take reasonable action towards paying your on-going
energy use and repaying your arrears; or
(b) you have refused or failed to take reasonable action towards making payments towards the cost of their on-going energy use after we have contacted you to discuss varying the amount payable, or the frequency of those payments; or
(c) You are not facing payment difficulties.


Payment arrangements
(10) We will accept a payment proposal or revised proposal put forward by you if it:
(a) provides for the making of payments of equal amounts at regular intervals of up to one month; and
(b) would result in your arrears being fully paid in no more than 2 years after the first payment; and
(c) provides for payments for energy use being made together with payments to reduce arrears; and
(d) is based on a reasonable forecast of your energy use over the next 12 months.


(11) We will also accept a payment proposal that provides for payments of different amounts at different intervals that results in the arrears being fully paid by a date later than 2 years after the first payment if the payments for energy use are made separately from payments for arrears.


(12) If we accept your payment proposal, we will give you a written schedule of payments showing:
(a) the total number of payments to be made to pay the arrears; and
(b) the period over which the payments are to be made; and
(c) the date by which each payment must be made; and
(d) the amount of each payment.


(13) If you fail to make a payment by the date on which it was payable, we will contact you to discuss a revised proposal.


(14) On accepting a payment proposal or a revised proposal from you, we will give you a written schedule of payments showing:
(a) the total number of payments to be made to pay the arrears; and
(b) the period over which the payments are to be made; and
(c) the date by which each payment must be made; and
(d) the amount of each payment.


(15) If you are receiving assistance under this arrangement and you fail to make a payment by the date on which it was payable, we will contact you to discuss revising the proposal.


Payment by Centrepay
(16) If Centrepay is available as a payment option under your customer retail contract, we will allow you to use Centrepay as a payment option.


(17) If Centrepay is not available as a payment option under your customer retail contract, we
will undertake a review of your customer retail contract.
(a) If, as a result of a review, an alternative customer retail contract is considered to be more appropriate, we will transfer you to that alternative contract, if you provide you explicit informed consent to do so.
(b) Any alternative customer retail contract offered to you will make Centrepay available as a payment option.
(c) If, as a result of the review, there is no alternative customer retail contract considered to be more appropriate, we will make Centrepay available as a payment option under your existing customer retail contract.
(d) We will not charge you for the review, for any transfer to an alternative customer retail contract or any early termination charge or other penalty for the early termination of your previous customer retail contract.

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