Power bill reform on the right track Cost of Living

Power bill reform on the right track

The Victorian Council of Social Service has welcomed a plan to give new rights to people struggling to pay their power bills.

Nearly 20,000 Victorians had their energy supply cut-off in the last half of 2016.

The Essential Services Commission’s draft decision recommends people with ‘energy debts’ should have the right to design payment plans that suit their needs.

Under the plan, struggling Victorians would also be entitled to advice on:

  • How to lower their energy costs
  • More affordable energy packages
  • Community support and
  • Direct government assistance, including concessions and Utility Relief Grants

People will generally need to pay off their debts over two years, but will be able to take longer if their circumstances require it.

“These entitlements are more important than ever, because wages and income support are failing to keep up with skyrocketing energy bills,” said VCOSS Deputy CEO Mary Sayers

“Importantly, the draft decision does not propose any requirement for people to prepay for their power bills in order to stay connected.

VCOSS congratulates the Essential Services Commission for listening to the community sector about how best to assist people facing payment difficulties.

Victorian power users will also continue to benefit from energy companies’ hardship programs. Specialist, respectful conversations are the best way of pinpointing the causes of large energy debts, and getting customers the help they need. We urge anybody struggling with their power bill to ask their energy provider about available hardship programs.

VCOSS will now review the draft decision in detail, before making a formal submission to the Essential Services Commission next month.