New rules will help fight energy disconnections: VCOSS Cost of Living

New rules will help fight energy disconnections: VCOSS

New rules for power companies in Victoria will help stop struggling energy users incurring big debts or being disconnected, the Victorian Council of Social Service said.

The Essential Services Commission today released its new Payment Difficulty Framework, designed to protect people struggling to stay connected to power.

VCOSS CEO Emma King said the new rules will put Victorian energy customers “in the driving seat”.

“Under these new rules, power companies will be obligated to work with people who ask for assistance, and tell them of all the help that’s available.”

“Retailers will also have to consider a person’s own suggestion of what a realistic payment plan looks like.”

“And where people have serious debts, retailers must provide practical assistance to drive down that person’s energy bill.”

“It will also now be tougher for retailers to deny people access to energy. Disconnections must genuinely be a last resort, and people can’t be disconnected if their debt is less than $300.”

“This will mean fewer people racking up monster debts or living in the dark.”

Ms King said for many households on low incomes, there simply isn’t enough money to pay the power bills.

“Skyrocketing power prices, low wage growth, expensive housing and inadequate income support have created a toxic mix, making support for low-income Victorians more crucial than ever.”

VCOSS also acknowledges the limits of the new ESC Framework. The framework does not address situations where people are chronically unable to afford energy.

This will need to be tackled through further policy measures, with the government working in partnership with retailers and the community sector.

Further reading:
Helping people to stay connected
VCOSS Submission to the ESC
June 2017