Help for customers in hardship

Retailers must provide additional help to customers that are having trouble paying their energy bills due to hardship.

What do I need to do?

Call your retailer

Sometimes things happen in life that make it hard to pay your bills.

Talk to the retailer that sends you your electricity or gas bills. Tell them you’re having a tough time and you need help paying your bills. You can also ask a support person to contact your retailer for you.

Customer calling their retailer

Your retailer may be able to assist you with:

  • different options to pay your bills
  • the best energy plan for you
  • tips on how to manage your energy use
  • information on government concessions, relief schemes, energy rebates and financial counselling services.

Make sure you tell your retailer how much you can pay and when you can pay it.

Their contact information is on your bill. 

Retailer contact information is featured on your energy bill

Know your rights

Under the law, your energy provider must have a hardship policy that tells you how they can assist you if you are having trouble paying your energy bills due to hardship.

You can find it on their website or ask them to send you a copy.

The AER publishes approved hardship policies on our website.

See our Hardship policy page for more information about the requirements for hardship policies.

The above information applies to residential energy consumers in New South Wales, South Australia, Tasmania, Queensland and the Australian Capital Territory.

Still having trouble?

If you’re not happy with how your energy provider has helped you, you can contact the energy ombudsman scheme in your state or territory.

Case studies

Mohamed contacts his retailer to get help

Mohamad is a single dad to three young children.

He recently lost his job and is struggling to make ends meet.

When he received his electricity bill for the quarter, Mohamad decided that he would need to go without other essentials to be able to keep the lights on.

Mohamad spoke to his neighbour about his worries and she suggested that he call his energy provider and tell them he needs some help paying his bills. She explained that there are hardship programs available where you get support that is right for you.

The neighbour showed Mohamad where to find the phone number for his energy provider on his bill and told him to explain his circumstances to them so that they would know how to help.

When Mohamad spoke to his energy provider and said he needed help paying his bills, they asked a few questions about his situation before suggesting he speak to a staff member specially trained in assisting customers in financial hardship.

Mohammad was able to get a cheaper energy deal and was put on a payment plan that took into account how much he said he could pay, how much he owed, and the amount of electricity he was likely to use over the next year. His energy provider also gave him tips on how to lower his electricity use and information about rebates, concessions, relief schemes and financial counselling services. 

Mohamad was sent some paperwork that set out what was agreed over the phone and told him exactly how much he needed to pay and when. It included information on who to contact if he needed more help, if his contact details changed or if he couldn’t make the payments as agreed.

Mohammad now has peace of mind that his family won’t get into more debt or have their electricity disconnected while he gets back on his feet.

Sophie’s retailer contacts her to offer help

Sophie had to cut back to one shift a week at work after being diagnosed with a chronic illness.

Her reduced income meant that she was struggling to get the money together in time and was often paying her electricity bills late.

Having missed another due date for her electricity bill, Sophie received a call from her energy provider who asked her a few questions about her situation and then recommended that she join their hardship program. Importantly, they explained that she can’t be disconnected while she’s participating in the program or charged any late payment fees.

Sophie was put on a cheaper energy deal and got a payment plan that took into account how much she said she could pay, how much she owed, and the amount of energy she was likely to use over the next year. Her energy provider also gave her tips on how to lower her energy use and information about rebates, concessions, relief schemes and financial counselling services. 

The energy provider let her know that it was important that she stayed in touch and let them know if she couldn’t make the agreed payments before the bills were due.

Sophie was sent some paperwork that set out what was agreed over the phone and told her exactly how much she needed to pay and when. It included information on who to contact if she needed more help, if her contact details changed or if she couldn’t make the payments as agreed.

Sophie contacted the energy provider to change her payment plan when her illness worsened and she was unable to keep making her agreed payments. Her energy provider was understanding of her situation and agreed to reduce her payment amounts.

Sophie was comforted that she would be supported through this difficult time and felt she did not have to worry about being disconnected. 

Hardship information available in other languages

This brochure for household energy customers provides useful information on how your retailer can assist you if you are having trouble paying your energy bills due to hardship.

If English is not your first language, you might find these links to translated publications helpful. They are designed to be printed and folded into 3 (DL format).

For information in languages other than English call the Telephone Interpreter Service (TIS) 131 450. You can also pre-book a phone interpreter on the TIS website.