Managing your account
Opening and closing accounts
It is your responsibility to let the electricity, gas and water retailer know when you move in or out of a property. You can usually open or close an account by contacting the retailer by telephone. You may need to allow two to three days for the retailer to process your request.
If you don't open an account, most retailers will send a letter to the occupant to alert them to the fact that there is no account open for the premises. It is important that you respond to these letters or your supply may be disconnected.
It's a good idea to make a note of the meter readings when you move in or out of a property, in case there is an issue with your account later on.
Access to your meter
You are required to provide meter access to your electricity, gas or water company so that you can be billed accurately. Common problems with meter access are locked gates or the presence of a dog. Meter readers are not required to enter a property where there is an unrestrained dog in the yard, even if the owners insist it is friendly.
Where access to the meter is not possible, your supplier may estimate your bills. You may be able make other arrangements such as reading the meter yourself to avoid estimated bills. However, your supplier must physically read your meter at least every twelve months. If the supplier cannot access your meter and needs to make an appointment with you, they may charge a special meter reading fee.
Paying your bills on time
You are required to pay your bills on time, or you may face disconnection or debt recovery action by your retailer.
Paying arrears owing
Retailers may be entitled to transfer an old debt to your current account. The retailer may also refer the debt to a collection agency. If you believe that a debt should not have been transferred, speak to your retailer or contact EWON.
Opening and closing an account
Moving in or out?
It is your responsibility to let the electricity, gas and water supplier know when you move in or out of a property. You can usually open or close an account by contacting the supplier by telephone or online.
When you open an energy account, you must provide your name and address, identification, and ensure that the meter is accessible.
When you close your account, you should allow at least five days for the retailer to process your request. If you’re moving to a new property, give your new address to the retailer.
You can be held responsible for usage at a property while the account is in your name, even if you no longer live there.
It is also a good idea to make a note or take a photo of the meter readings when you move in or out of a property, in case there is an issue with your account later on.
Tips on choosing an energy retailer
You can buy electricity and gas from the standard retailer in your area, or you can take up a market contract with any other licensed retailer.
To find a retailer or compare prices, visit energymadeeasy.gov.au or phone the Australian Energy Regulator on 1300 585 165. You can approach any of the retailers to find out what they offer.
Shop around to find an offer that suits your situation and budget. Take your time – read all the terms and conditions before you agree to anything.
One of the ways that many utility providers attempt to recover overdue accounts is by using a debt collector. If they are unsuccessful in getting the money, some suppliers will list the customer with a credit-reporting agency. Suppliers are required to notify customers if this occurs.
In many cases customers have moved address and are not aware that their debt has been listed with one of these agencies. It is only when the customer applies for consumer credit such as a loan, credit card or mobile phone, and it is declined, that they discover their details are with one of these agencies.
EWON can investigate a complaint where, for example, a customer is disputing the amount of the debt, or is disputing that they owe money. If we find that the supplier has made an error, they will normally ensure that the customer’s credit rating is corrected.
New privacy and credit reporting laws came into effect on 12 March 2014. Customers can now be default listed for an overdue bill if:
- they are at least 60 days overdue in making the payment
- the overdue amount is at least $150
- their provider has given a written notice informing the customer of the overdue payment and requesting payment
- their provider has given a second written notice informing the customer of their intention to default list, 30 days after giving the first notice
- their provider is not prevented by a statute of limitations from recovering the amount of the overdue payment.
If the customer was default listed for less than $150 prior to 12 March 2014, the listing would have been removed as this information cannot remain on a credit file after 12 March 2014.
Under the previous laws, people could be default listed for any overdue bills that remained unpaid for longer than 60 days, providing written notification was sent to the person's last known address. These previous laws would apply to all default listings applied to a customer’s credit file prior to 12 March 2014.
Once a person is listed with an agency, their listing remains for five years. Serious credit infringements stay on file for seven years.
People who are listed with a credit reporting agency can request a copy of their credit report directly from the agency. Individuals are entitled to a free credit report every 12 months, but in some instances the agency may charge a fee to obtain a copy. It usually takes around ten working days for the report to be sent.
If the information in the credit record is incorrect or misleading, these concerns can be raised directly with EWON if the complaint relates to the utility provider or with the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner.
For free legal advice and assistance contact the Financial Rights Legal Centre.
Bankruptcy and disconnection
Can your electricity, gas or water be disconnected if you owe money on your accounts but have been declared a bankrupt? The short answer is ‘yes’.
According to the Australian Financial Security Authority (formerly Insolvency and Trustee Service Australia) “if [a bankrupt individual has] unpaid accounts relating to housing or essential services such as electricity, telephone or gas the supplier may require payment of the account or a bond for the service to be maintained”.
A bankrupt customer who wants to maintain their energy or water supply will generally need to pay what is owing on their account or establish a payment plan to stay connected.
Customers unable to negotiate a realistic and affordable payment plan with their supplier can contact us.
Consumers with credit, debt and banking issues can phone the Credit and Debt Hotline.
Information for tenants
- Electricity and gas: If you have a standard Residential Tenancy Agreement, you will be responsible for electricity and gas charges, and you will need to open accounts. However, if your lease specifically states that electricity, gas or water usage is included as part of your rent, you will not need to open accounts. The landlord will need to open the account/s, and they cannot charge you any additional fees for doing this. You can only be charged for electricity or gas (as part of your lease agreement) if the rented premises are separately metered.
- Water: Generally landlords are responsible for paying service charges for water and sewerage, however as a tenant you can be asked to pay for water usage. If you are responsible for paying for the water you use, this should be stated in your rental agreement before you sign.
- Public housing tenants are required to pay for water and this charge is in addition to the rent. For more information contact Housing NSW.
You can only be charged for the metered amount of water which you use, so make sure the meter reading is noted on the Condition Report when you move in or out.
Living in a share house
When you open an account in your name, you take responsibility for all future bills. If the account is in more than one name, each person can be held responsible. If you are living in share accommodation, make sure the account holder details are kept up-to-date. You should ensure that everyone in your household agrees on who will be responsible for paying the bills.
Landlord / tenant disputes
If you are living in community or public housing and you have a dispute, contact the Housing Appeals Committee.
Green energy options
Green energy options plus the wide range of energy contracts/offerings/discounts can be confusing. Most electricity retailers offer green energy options. Green energy tariffs usually cost the consumer more because they are supporting the development of new renewable energy facilities.
EWON has received complaints from consumers
- who have been pressured by a marketer to ‘do the right thing’ and take up a contract with a green energy component
- who have been told by a marketer that they will not be paying more to ‘go green’, but then receive a higher bill than before
- who want to go green but will have to pay a termination fee to cancel their existing non-green contract
- who have signed for offers such as energy saving globes then found they also signed a contract and their account was transferred without their consent
- who are confused about what they are actually paying for.
Tips for consumers
- You do not have to take up the option of green energy. Green energy is worth supporting, however it may not be an affordable option for you at the moment. If you do not take up a green energy option, you will still get electricity supplied.
- If you want to go green, you do not have to sign a market contract. Check with your standard retailer to see what green energy options they offer as part of your standard contract.
- Consider the extra cost and what you can afford. Energy price increases come into effect 1 July each year. Some customers in financial difficulty may find the additional cost of green energy too much.
- Look for GreenPower accredited products. These products are audited by NSW government and the reports are available at www.greenpower.gov.au. Non-accredited ‘green’ tariffs are not audited by the GreenPower Accreditation Program, and their claims to ‘greenness’ are therefore untested.
- Research the energy offers and green products provided by retailers. To compare offers visit www.energymadeeasy.gov.au
Life support equipment
- NSW Government Life Support Rebate
- Commonwealth Government Essential Medical Equipment Payment
- Life support protection against disconnection
If you or someone in your household uses life support medical equipment, you may be eligible for rebates and other assistance.
State and Federal rebates are available to NSW residents who use energy-intensive life support machines at home. The NSW Government Life Support Rebate and the Federal Government Essential Medical Equipment Rebates are available to people who use the equipment listed below.
These are the machines that will entitle you to a NSW Government Life Support Rebate (different rates apply depending on the equipment and the number of hours per day it is used):
- Positive airways pressure (PAP) device
- Enteral feeding pump (formerly known as Kangaroo Pump)
- Phototherapy equipment
- Home dialysis
- Ventilators (formerly known as 'respirator')
- Oxygen concentrator
- Total parenteral nutrition
- External heart pump
Learn more about the Life Support Rebate here.
This rebate aims to compensate those customers who faced additional increases in home energy costs under a carbon price as a result of the medical equipment use in their home to manage their disability or medical condition. The following machines entitle you to an annual Essential Medical Equipment payment of $140 from the Commonwealth Government:
- Oxygen concentrators
- Ventilators (can include Continuous Positive airways pressure devices - CPAP)
- Dialysis machines (peritoneal and haemo-dialysis)
- External heart pumps
- Respirators (iron lung)
- Phototherapy equipment
- Suction pumps (respiratory or gastric)
- Feeding pumps (kangaroo pump, or total parenteral nutrition
- Insulin pumps
- Airbed vibrator
- Apnoea monitors (children only)
- Medically required heating and air conditioning
See how the Essential Medical Equipment Payment could help you here.
The National Energy Retail Rules state that both the retailer and the distributor are required to register those premises where they have been advised that a family member is on life support.
The retailer must not arrange for the disconnection of premises that have been registered and the distributor must assist the customer prepare a plan of action in the case of an unplanned interruption, and give at least four business days notice of any planned interruption. These are the machines covered by these Rules.
- Oxygen concentrator
- Intermittent peritoneal dialysis machine
- Kidney dialysis machine
- Chronic positive airways pressure respirator
- Crigler najjar syndrome phototherapy equipment
- Ventilator for life support
- In relation to a particular customer – any other equipment that a registered medical practitioner certifies is required for a person residing at the customer’s premises for life support.
Contact your supplier or distributor to register your medical equipment.
Estimated bills and meter reading
A meter reader visits properties once every three months, and the meter data is then sent through to the provider. If the meter reader is not able to access the meter (e.g. due to a locked gate or a dog in the yard), the provider will receive an ‘estimated’ read, based on the customer’s past usage or the usage of comparable households.
If a bill is based on an estimated read, this should be clearly shown on the invoice. If the estimated bill results in the customer being over or under-charged, this will be adjusted in the bill following the next actual meter reading. Below are common questions we receive about estimated bills and meter reading:
How often are bills issued?
For customers on a standard retail contract, a provider must issue bills at least once every three months. For customers on a market contract, the frequency of their bills will depend on the terms and conditions of their contract.
Can a meter reader enter my property?
An authorised meter reader can enter a property to read the meter without the prior consent of the customer.
How is an estimated bill calculated?
If the meter reader is unable to access the meter and provide an actual reading to the provider, the customer’s bill will be based on the estimated read provided to the retailer. The estimate may be based on historical metering data for the customer or, where this is not available, on average usage of a comparable customer.
The provider can base three consecutive quarterly bills on estimated reads, but must arrange for an actual read to be taken if access to the meter continues to be a problem after 12 months.
Can I provide a self-read to my provider?
If you receive an account based on an estimated reading, the provider may agree to accept your own reading of your meter. This will be considered an estimated read.
What is a special meter read?
A special meter read is an actual meter reading taken outside of the usual reading cycle. If you are concerned that your bill is high because the estimated reading is incorrect, you can ask your provider for a special meter read. The provider is able to charge customers a special meter reading fee for this. This fee must be waived if the meter reading is found to be incorrect.
How often is my meter read?
The provider must do its best to ensure that actual readings are carried out at least once every 12 months. If access to your meter is a problem, you may be asked to make an appointment for a special read and you will be charged a fee for this.
Home Energy Action Program
The Home Energy Action Program (HEA) is a NSW Government intitiative designed to help low income households reduce energy costs by replacing old appliances with new energy efficient models.
To be eligible for this program, customers must meet the following conditions:
- Be a NSW resident
- Hold one of the following valid concession cards:
- Pensioner Concession Card
- Health Care Card or Low Income Health Care Card from Centrelink
- Veterans' Affairs Gold Card
- Own a fridge six years old, or older, and want to replace it OR
- Own a plasma or cathode ray tube (CRT) television and want to replace it
What appliances can I replace?
The Government is offering a 40 percent discount on the cost of a fridge and a 50 percent discount on fridges. The new appliances will be delivered to your home and installed and your old appliance can be removed and recycled.
See a full list of the appliances and their discounted prices.
How to apply
Eligible customers can apply for the scheme online in three steps. Apply for the program online, here.