Energy retailers have launched a campaign to raise awareness amongst households and small businesses of the support available if they are experiencing financial difficulties due to COVID-19.
A recent survey showed 60 per cent of people were concerned about the impact of COVID-19 on their financial wellbeing, with one in five saying they are very concerned.
The Australian Energy Council’s chief executive Sarah McNamara said, “We know that energy bills are one of the top three cost of living concerns for households, along with rent and mortgages.
“The job and financial impacts from COVID-19 will magnify consumer concerns and with more people working from home, there is increased demand on domestic energy and other services.
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“This campaign is there to simply advise that help is available by approaching your energy retailer for a confidential discussion.
“We recognise that not everyone may feel confident about doing that, so part of the motivation for this campaign is to say that a conversation with your retailer can help you to understand your options.”
The campaign, Helping You Stay On Track, has been translated into 11 languages and will be circulated via social media, local government and community groups.
There are currently around 88,000 electricity customers on payment plans in New South Wales, South Australia, Queensland, the ACT and Tasmania and a further 82,000 who are in hardship plans, while a further 35,000 have had payments deferred. In Victoria there are 48,000 customers receiving assistance from their energy retailer, with 9000 having their payments deferred.
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Ms McNamara said retailers in these states offer a range of assistance measures to all customers on request. Assistance measures will differ between retailers, but include:
- Payment extensions.
- Payment plans.
- Bill smoothing and other options to help customers avoid large bills.
- Advice on how to manage your usage, including tips to lower your bills.
“If you are concerned that you may not be able to afford to pay your bills as they fall due, contact your retailer to obtain the support you need. You won’t be disconnected if you can’t afford to pay,” Ms McNamara said.
“There are also a wide range of concessions and emergency relief available for customers receiving JobSeeker and other Government payments. Retailers will help customers to access these rebates, and they provide other measures to help customers who are doing it tough.”