AER extends statement of expectations
The Australian Energy Regulator (AER) announced their Statement of Expectations have been extended until 31 March 2021.
Queensland’s Energy and Water Ombudsman Jane Pires has welcomed the extension of the Statement of Expectations until 31 March 2021 announced by the Australian Energy Regulator (AER) today.
In recognition of the ongoing impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, the statement continues to provide additional assistance to customers experiencing financial stress and encouraging them to reach out to their retailer for help.
“This extension of assistance is much needed, given the winding back of JobSeeker and JobKeeper payments in September and the growing number of customers on debt referral arrangements,” Ms Pires said.
“A key focus of the Statement of Expectations is that customers who put their hand up for help should receive the benefit of retailer support and not be disconnected,” she said.
“The latest Statement of Expectations also has a sharper focus on transferring customers on deferred debt arrangements to sustainable payment plans.”
The AER’s expectations include a number of consumer protections to help keep the power on while assisting customers to manage their payments, even if they can’t afford to pay much right now.
All residential and small business customers who indicate they are in financial stress should be offered a payment plan or hardship arrangement. These arrangements should take into account the customer’s capacity to pay and ensure they are on the best tariff to minimise their energy bills.
Retailers should not disconnect any residential customer or small business who have contacted them regarding their debt and are accessing retailer support. This also extends to body corporates or large businesses who are on-selling energy to residential and small business customers. Referrals to debt collection agencies should be also be deferred until at least 31 March 2021 and potentially beyond.
Networks and retailers are also expected to waive disconnection, reconnection or contract break fees for small businesses who have ceased operations.
Ms Pires said while the Statement of Expectations outlines a range of support measures, many of these only apply once the customer contacts their retailer to let them know they are having trouble paying their bill.
“If consumers are worried about paying their bills, the best thing they can do is get in touch with their provider as soon as they can to find out about payment plans and extensions, and any rebates or concessions they may be entitled to,” she said.
“If they’re not happy with the outcome or need further support, contact us – the Energy and Water Ombudsman Queensland – at www.ewoq.com.au or call 1800 662 837 for help.”
For more information, view the AER’s updated Statement of Expectations.