The Australian Energy Regulator has developed a new framework to help Australians pay their electricity bill.
The Sustainable Payment Plan Framework has been launched with the release of the 2015-16 AER report on the performance of the retail market, which showed a mixed result for Australia’s energy customers.
AER chair Paula Conboy said overall energy affordability for 2015-16 is on par with the previous year, and while there are encouraging signs consumers are increasingly accessing assistance to avoid disconnection, more needs to be done to protect vulnerable consumers.
“In most jurisdictions, the number of households with an energy debt fell, and across most jurisdictions there was a fall in the number of customers on payment plans, typically the first form of assistance offered to customers showing signs of payment difficulties,” she said.
“At the same time, we are seeing an increasing number of households entering hardship programs, which provide additional support beyond a payment plan, and improved success rates for completion of hardship programs.
“This is an encouraging sign that those struggling to pay their energy bills are getting the assistance they need from their retailers earlier, to avoid being disconnected.”
The new framework sets voluntary standards for retailers when agreeing payment plans with customers, and will be effective from November 22 for the customers of 14 retailers who implemented the framework.
The AER is also reviewing the minimum amount consumers must owe before their energy services can be disconnected to ensure this protection remains appropriate.
The report also shows that energy bills remain a big expense for many people, with low income households spending between 3.8 per cent on electricity and 2.8 per cent on gas (New South Wales) and 5.2 per cent on electricity and 4.0 per cent on gas (South Australia).