Requests to disconnect Victorians for unpaid electricity bill during Covid-19 crisis

Requests to disconnect Victorians for unpaid electricity bill during Covid-19 crisis
Requests to disconnect Victorians for unpaid electricity bill during Covid-19 crisis

The latest figures from the Essential Services Commission (ESC) reveal that more than 1,000 requests have been made to disconnect Victorians from electricity for not paying their bills since late March this year.

According to the Consumer Action Law Centre, by continuing to request for people’s power to be shut off, energy retailers are failing to do their part in keeping Victorians safe during the Covid-19 crisis.

The disconnection requests are being made despite energy retailers promising there would be no disconnections for people receiving hardship assistance if they are unable to afford their energy bills.

More than 65 community organisations and service providers have called on federal and state governments, and energy retailers to implement a proactive moratorium on all disconnections during the Covid-19 health crisis. This should include people having difficulty paying their bills.

Only two energy retailers have ruled out disconnections entirely: the state-owned Ergon Energy (Queensland) and Aurora Energy (Tasmania), with some electricity networks  attempting to block requests from energy retailers to disconnect households who have been unable to pay their bills. It is unclear if gas networks are doing the same.

"Energy retailers have existing financial hardship policies in place, but these put the onus on the households to keep in contact with their retailer. People can easily fall through the gaps when they are required to navigate large call centres to seek assistance – we’re hearing of people spending hours on the phone to contact basic utilities," Senior Policy Officer with Consumer Action Law Centre Jake Lilley says.

“Many people don’t even realise their energy retailer is required to help them, especially where energy retailers fail to reach out and discuss the assistance that’s available. Often, a person’s energy bill might not be top of mind when they’re worrying about a sick family member or putting food on the table. Energy retailers need to do what’s right for the community.”

Tags: 
Electricity Cost COVID-19

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