Read case studies of customers who we've helped to resolve payment difficulties. Personal information about our customers has been changed to protect their privacy.
All energy retailers must have a customer hardship policy that provide clear assistance to you if you're experiencing financial difficulty. Get in touch with them if you're having difficulties paying a bill.
COVID-19 impacted customer refused extension
Tony contacted us after being refused an extension of time to pay a $276 bill. As Uber driver, he had gone into self-isolation due to the COVID-19 pandemic and had asked for an extension. The retailer’s representative insisted on payment by the due date and Tony felt they had been rude and dismissive. He had always paid his bills in full and on time.
Outcome: we referred the matter to the retailer's specialist dispute resolution team, so it could be escalated to a higher level. We advised Tony that he could return to us if an agreed outcome could not be negotiated.
Retailers are providing extra support for customers impacted by COVID-19. If you are having problems paying your bills, let them know.
Closed business unable to afford estimated bill due to COVID-19 restrictions
Jasmine’s restaurant shut in March 2020 because of the COVID-19 restrictions. She then received an electricity bill from her retailer for the month of April for $1175.56, based on an estimated meter read.
Jasmine considered the bill to be high as the only electricity being used was for a single fridge. She provided a meter self-read however the retailer did not accept this. She also said the retailer required her to pay all of the account, which she could not afford, before it would establish a payment plan. Jasmine contacted us when she received a disconnection warning notice.
When we investigated, the retailer placed a hold on the account and said that the notice had been issued in error. It said it had received updated data from the distributor and the estimated bill would be reissued and that this reissued bill would be significantly less than the estimated one.
It also said it would offer an affordable payment plan to Jasmine if she could not afford the new bill. We let Jasmine know and advised her to contact us again if she could not negotiate an affordable payment plan.
Energy retailers must provide additional support to customers impacted by COVID-19. If you’re having problems paying your bills contact your provider. If you're not happy with its response, contact us.
Failure to refer to affordability program or offer payment plan
Julie’s electricity supply was disconnected with arrears of $3,430. She asked to be reconnected but was told by her retailer that she needed to pay $2000 upfront, which she could not afford. She offered to pay $500 then make fortnightly payments, but was refused. She also said that a settlement was due on her property and that she could pay the full bill as soon as this was completed.
Outcome: We contacted the retailer and arranged for reconnection. It agreed to set up a payment plan and asked Julie to contact it to negotiate the amount.
If you’re not able to pay your bill, let your provider know. Retailers are all required to have a hardship or affordability program which can help you access a payment plan, government rebates and other support. Once you are on a payment plan, your provider is not allowed to disconnect you.
If your provider is not able to help you, or you’re not happy with its response, contact us.
Debt after leaving family home
Joyce was forced to leave her home due to family violence. She closed the energy account and the retailer agreed to send her a form related to her circumstances. However, there was no further contact from the retailer and an outstanding bill of $283 was passed to a collection agency. She asked for the bill to be waived or put on hold until she could afford to pay.
Outcome: We opened an investigation and the retailer immediately recognised the customer’s situation and waived the outstanding bill.
Let your retailer know if you’re experiencing any special circumstances. If you still have issues, contact us.
Read more about how we deal with cases that involve family violence.
Embedded network customer disputes high hot water bill
Mrs Sims had lived at an apartment with an individual hot water meter for four months. Her meter indicated she used approximately 9,500 litres of hot water in that time. However the billing agent for the building had issued bills that showed she was using 4,500 litres per month. The building was part of an embedded network.
Mrs Sims contacted the billing agent to complain but did not receive a response for months. She also complained that she paid her first bill by direct debit and the billing agent then continued to deduct payments from her account without permission. The agent told her that direct debit was the only payment option.
Outcome: We contacted the billing agent who advised that Mrs Sims' meter was faulty and would be replaced. They offered a credit of $300 which averaged her hot water usage for the disputed period to 3,000 litres per month.
Customer seeks assistance with arrears from previous account
Isobel, a sole parent with a toddler not receiving child support, was living in a private rental while on the waitlist for public housing. She came to a bills support event in Blacktown looking for help in managing a debt (arrears) from a closed account connected with her previous address. Her provider would not allow her to pay less than $50 per fortnight but she said she would struggle to pay this much.
Outcome: We found that her concession details had not been applied to the closed or current account, even though this had been given to the provider. We called her provider on the day and it confirmed it would add her concession and backdate it.
We also advised Isobel she had two options with the debt from her previous address:
- Transfer the debt to her current account and then apply for Energy Accounts Payment Assistance (EAPA) to be applied to that account.
- Apply for debt relief – this requires a letter of recommendation from a financial counsellor, doctor or social worker.
Isobel decided on the second option and made an appointment with a social worker at Centrelink to organise debt relief.
If you’re struggling to pay your bills, contact your provider first to discuss your payment options. Read more about where to get help paying bills.
Customer unable to pay electricity account by due date
Voula approached our staff at a Bring your Bills Day in Woy Woy. She wasn’t able to pay her outstanding account balance by the due date, despite having received a payment extension. She had been told verbally by her provider that she would be disconnected if her account was not paid by the due date.
Voula told us she could increase her regular payments to $25 per fortnight and that she would make an appointment with a community agency to request Energy Accounts Payment Assistance (EAPA) vouchers.
The outstanding bill was based on an actual meter reading that she considered to be too high and so she requested a billing review to ensure it was accurate.
After the event, we followed up with her provider, who advised there was no disconnection order and that it considered the billing to be correct. Voula had been removed from its affordability program earlier that year because she had not made the agreed payments.
Outcome: the provider agreed to consider putting Voula back on its affordability program and with a payment arrangement. They also offered a $100 customer service gesture. Voula accepted the offer and was referred to community agencies for an EAPA assessment and financial counselling.
Read more customer stories.