June 9, 2020
All over the country, households are now beginning to see the impact from months of COVID-19 lock-in on their energy bills.
We've all been using far more energy at home than we normally would, which translaes into higher consumption and higher bills than would normally be the case.
Many households are feeling the financial impact of job and income loss due to the pandemic, plus we're into winter which for many households means higher energy consumption for heating
So it's more important than ever to make sure you're minimising your spend on energy.
There are three key steps to minimising energy bills:
• Firstly, make sure you're using as little energy as possible
• Secondly, make sure you're paying as little as possible for the energy you do use
• And thirdly, make sure you're accessing all of the concessions and credits that you're entitled to.
Our blog post has some tips for point 1
The entire Bill Hero service is designed to solve point two - Get started
Read on for more information about point 3
In Victoria, there is a variety of concessions and benefits to assist low-income Victorians with energy bills, including the Annual electricity concession which offers up to 17.5% discount on energy costs, the Winter gas concession which also offers up to 17.5% discount, and the Controlled load electricity concession which offers up to 13% discount on your controlled load energy bills
The [Utility Relief Grant offers up to $1,300 in a 2-year period help to pay a mains electricity, gas or water bill that is overdue due to a temporary financial crisis.
In Queensland, $414.45 is available from the Electricity Rebate and the "Reticulated Natural Gas Rebate.
Queensland, households can also get a $50-a-year credit on their bills. This is expected to rise about $200 this year because of COVID-19.
- In South Australia, you can get $226.67 from the Energy Bill Concession and JobSeeker recipients can get the concessions mentioned above, plus a $500 boost.
- In Western Australia, the Energy Assistance Payment offers $305, and this year there is an additional COVID-19 (coronavirus) additional payment of $305.25
- Note that if you receive JobSeeker payments, you are also eligible for a Health Care Card, which will qualify you for most of the payments above.
For those who are struggling with paying their energy bills, here's what to do:
Your first step if you're having trouble paying you enery bills is to tell your retailer
Energy retailers are obliged to provide customers who report difficulty in bill payment with information about payment plans, rebates and concessions, including the Utility Relief Grant Scheme.
If you tell your retailer you are having payment difficulties, they are obliged to offer you an payment plan - eg to pay the bill in instalments, unless you've already been on two or more instalment plans in the last 12 months and did not stick to them.
You can apply over the phone or in writing.
The payment plan must be based on what you can afford to pay each week or fortnight, not just want the company wants you to pay.
If the company won’t offer you a plan that you think you can afford, you can ask to see how they calculated the repayments offered
All retailers are required under the regulations to have a financial hardship policy that is available on their website.
Financial hardship policies must include:
• flexible options for payment of bills.
• provision for auditing of customer’s energy comsumption,
• flexible options for the purchase of replacement energy appliances, and processes for early response to payment difficulties.
If you are complying with a financial hardship policy, your retailer cannot disconnect you.
You can get free, confidential and independent financial counselling by contacting the National Debt Helpline on 1800 007 007.
You may be entitled to a concession on your bills if you hold a Pensioner or Health Care Card.
You may want to apply for a once-off Utility Relief Grant (URG) to help you pay your current bill.
The company must not disconnect you if you have applied for an URG and are waiting for a decision.
You can make a complaint to the relevant Ombudsman in your state:
• Energy and Water Ombudsman Victoria (EWOV) - https://www.ewov.com.au/
• Energy & Water Ombudsman NSW (EWON) - http://www.ewon.com.au/
• Energy & Water Ombudsman SA - http://www.ewosa.com.au/
• Energy Ombudsman of Tasmania - http://www.energyombudsman.tas.gov.au/
• Energy and Water Ombudsman Queensland (EWOQ) - https://www.ewoq.com.au/
• Energy and Water Ombudsman Western Australia - http://www.ombudsman.wa.gov.au/energyandwater
• ACT Civil and Administrative Tribunal - http://www.acat.act.gov.au/