The AER previously released a Statement of Expectations in March consistent with the government’s expectations of energy companies to support their customers.
The expectations formed the basis for a nationally co-ordinated approach to hardship support across the essential services for small businesses.
Under the updated measures, the government said energy companies should:
- Continue to offer all households and small businesses (including those eligible for the JobKeeper payment) in financial stress a payment plan or hardship arrangement, which may include agreeing a period where no payment will be made.
- Waive disconnection, reconnection and/or contract break fees, along with daily supply charges to retailers until at least 31 October 2020 for small businesses that have ceased operating.
- Not disconnect residential or small-business customers in financial distress that have made contact with their retailer or responded to communications before 31 October 2020.
- Defer referrals of a retailer’s customers to debt collection agencies for recovery actions or credit default listing until at least 31 October 2020.
In addition, previously announced support measures, set to expire on 31 July 2020, will be extended through to 31 October 2020, and potentially beyond.
Minister for Energy and Emissions Reduction Angus Taylor said Australians were spending more time at home and energy retailers needed to adjust their practices to meet the needs of their customers.
“The Morrison government is continuing to shield Australian households and small businesses from energy bill shock and to ensure their lights stay on during the COVID-19 pandemic,” Mr Taylor said.
“COVID-19 is forcing all of us to change the way we live and work right now, and that means spending more time at home. As a result, households are experiencing higher energy usage and that drives up energy bills, which is concerning for many Australians.
“Through these extended measures, the government is ensuring energy companies are helping rather than burdening their customers during this difficult period.”