Following the release of the Statement of Expectations from the market regulator the Australian Energy Council (AEC) reconfirmed its members’ commitment to assist customers experiencing financial distress.
The AEC has also supported the Essential Services Commission of Victoria’s campaign to inform customers across the state about the assistance energy retailers can provide.
The AEC’s Chief Executive, Sarah McNamara, said energy retailers are doing everything they can to help customers affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We recognise the critical importance of maintaining energy connections and will make sure help is available for impacted customers.
“Energy retailers are focused on providing support through measures like payment plans and ensuring there are no barriers to entering hardship programs. They will also ensure long term assistance is readily available on request.
“There will be no disconnections for affected customers receiving hardship assistance if they are unable to afford their energy bills.
“For customers in the hardship program, AEC members have committed to pausing any external debt collection and bankruptcy proceedings, and will not charge any late fees if these customers cannot pay on time.
“They will also help customers to access available grants and concessions."
Ms McNamara also welcomed the AER’s recognition that the viability of energy businesses must be protected. Retailers often cannot control costs from other parts of the energy supply chain, such as wholesale power prices and distribution costs, that are charged to customers.
“For that reason over the coming months a whole of sector response is vital to achieve the best outcomes for customers. We look forward to working with the AER and other market bodies, governments and stakeholders on the best ways to share the risks and costs across the sector and work through these expectations.”
About the Australian Energy Council
The Council represents 23 major electricity and downstream natural gas businesses operating in competitive wholesale and retail energy markets. These businesses collectively generate the overwhelming majority of electricity in Australia and sell gas and electricity to over 10 million homes and businesses.
The Australian Energy Council welcomes the release of the Energy Security Board's advice to Energy Ministers, and in particular its call for coordination and a common approach by jurisdictions but notes there is still much work to be done on the detail.
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