The Australian Energy Regulator (AER) is extending short-term, additional protections for households and small businesses already impacted by COVID-19 lockdowns in Greater Sydney to other impacted local government areas in New South Wales.
From 5pm AEST today, these protections will also apply to the local government areas of Newcastle, Lake Macquarie, Maitland, Port Stephens, Cessnock, Dungog, Singleton and Muswellbrook.
The AER recently developed a standby Statement of Expectations for energy retailers in the event jurisdictions are subject to extended stay-at-home orders.
The AER will generally apply the standby Statement in local government areas where stay at home orders are imposed for a period of 7 days or more.
The standby Statement principles will provide additional protections for residential and small business customers in these local government areas until two weeks after the stay-at-home order ends.
The standby Statement expects retailers to:
1. Offer all residential and small business consumers who indicate they may be in financial stress a payment plan or hardship arrangement;
2. Not disconnect any residential or small business consumers who may be in financial stress (including residential and small business consumers in an embedded network) without their agreement;
3. Defer referrals of residential and small business consumers to debt collection agencies for recovery actions or credit default listing.
The AER is ready to respond by providing the additional protections in other areas that may be impacted by the evolving health events and further stay-at-home orders.
The AER will continue to monitor the rapidly changing situation across all National Energy Customer Framework (NECF) jurisdictions.
The standby Statement of Expectations is applied at the AER’s discretion to NECF jurisdictions - the Australian Capital Territory, New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia or Tasmania.
Victorian energy consumers come under the separate protections of the Essential Services Commission, while Western Australia and the Northern Territory have their own separate retail energy market regulation.
Consumers can shop around for a better energy deal through the AER’s Energy Made Easy website, which offers a free energy price comparison service for households and small businesses.