The State Government provides a range of measures to help NSW customers manage their energy bills. Help includes direct financial assistance, like rebates and emergency assistance vouchers, and legal protection through the National Energy Customer Framework (NECF).
Direct financial assistance
- Low Income Household Rebate
- Family Energy Rebate
- NSW Gas Rebate
- Medical Energy Rebate
- Life Support Rebate
- Energy Accounts Payment Assistance (EAPA) vouchers
You can ask your retailer to put you on a payment plan. Payment plans allow customers to pay their bills in more regular, affordable instalments.
Establishing a payment plan with your retailer means negotiating an amount you will pay at specified regular intervals. Your retailer will look at how much you owe, how much your bills are likely to be for the next 12 months and how much you can afford to pay. If you are a hardship customer, you must be provided with two offers of assistance under your retailer's payment plan in a year before being disconnected.
All retailers must have processes in place to identify customers who could be experiencing financial hardship.
Minimum disconnection amount
Retailers are not allowed to disconnect a residential customer for not paying an electricity or gas bill if the amount owing is less than $300 and you have agreed with the retailer to repay the amount.
This amount is set by the Australian Energy Regulator and may be subject to change.
Late payment fees
To protect vulnerable customers NSW has banned charging late payment fees for energy where:
- the electricity customer is receiving the Low Income Household Rebate or the Medical Energy Rebate; or
- any bill given to the customer is being considered by the Energy and Water Ombudsman of NSW; or
- the customer has entered into a payment plan with the retailer; or
- where all or part payment of the bill has been made with Energy Accounts Payment Assistance (EAPA) vouchers; or
- the customer is seeking assistance through the EAPA Scheme.
Ban on exit fees
From 1 January 2014 retailers will not be allowed to charge exit fees (also known as early termination charges) to electricity customers who:
- are on a retailer's hardship program; or
- received the Low Income Household Rebate or the Medical Energy Rebate on their last bill prior to terminating the contract; or
- paid any part of their last bill, prior to terminating the contract, with an Energy Accounts Payment Assistance voucher.
For all other customers, the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal will determine the maximum amount retailers can charge for exit fees. This cap came into effect on 1 march 2014.
For all customers, retailers will also be able to recover the pro rata costs of any upfront inducements provided to customers to enter into the contract. This would mean that a retailer who provides a $100 credit to a customer to enter into a two year electricity contract will be able to recover $50 if the customer exits the contract after one year.
Post disconnection notice
NSW residential customers will receive a notice from their distributor at the time their premises is disconnected. This notice will outline how they can get reconnected as quickly as possible.
Financial counsellors help customers manage energy and other household bills, providing long term support to customers in addition to retailer hardship programs.
Financial counsellors can negotiate, provide advice on rights and responsibilities regarding credit and empower customers with knowledge.
Financial counselling services are offered by non-profit organisations to customers free of charge.
For more information visit www.fcan.com.au or call 1800 007 007.