The NSW 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).

National laws regulating the retailing and distribution of energy

The National Energy Customer Framework (customer framework) was implemented on 1 July 2013 and is made up of a number of national laws regulating the retailing and distribution of electricity and gas. The new laws moved the regulation of the sale and supply of energy from a state-based framework to national regulation.

Read more about your rights around energy contracts, billing, meter reading and disconnection.

Direct financial assistance

Payment plans

You can ask your retailer to put you on a payment plan. Payment plans allow customers to repay their bills in more regular, affordable instalments.

To enter a payment plan with your retailer, you need to negotiate and agree on an amount that you will pay at specified regular intervals. Your retailer will look at how much you owe, how much your bills are likely to be over 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 External link 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

On 3 September  2017, the NSW Government announced that retailers are not allowed to charge exit fees (also known as early termination charges) on any new contracts with any electricity customer. The NSW Government is working with retailers to put these changes in place as soon as possible and will confirm once this has taken effect.

During this period of change, the restrictions on exit charges implemented 1 January 2014 will remain in place. Retailers are not 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 determine the maximum amount retailers can charge for exit fees. This cap came into effect on 1 March 2014.

For all customers, retailers are also able to recover the pro rata costs of any upfront inducements provided to customers to enter into the contract. This means 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.

Ban on paper bill and Australia Post fees

On 3 September 2017, the NSW Government announced that retailers  are not allowed to charge paper bill fees or fees for paying through Australia Post to any electricity customer. The NSW Government is working with Retailers to put these changes in place as soon as possible and will confirm once this has taken effect.

If you feel that you may have been charged a fee unfairly, contact the Energy and Water Ombudsman, EWON, at www.ewon.com.au, or 1800 246 545 to learn more about your consumer rights and protections.

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 counselling

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.