The Australian Energy Regulator (AER) today welcomed new support for the energy market as retailers continue to help customers impacted by COVID-19.
AER Chair, Clare Savage, said the Australian Energy Market Commission’s decision to allow some retailers to defer payment of network charges will provide much needed relief to those with cash flow problems as they support customers who are in financial stress because of the pandemic.
“We are seeing a lot of retailers going above and beyond to support their customers who are doing it tough because of COVID-19 – that’s why we proposed this new support for retailers,” Ms Savage said.
“Energy retailers have an ongoing responsibility to support customers who have been affected by the pandemic. That extra customer support, such as payment plans and deferrals, comes with risks and costs that can affect a retailers’ cash flow.
“Allowing some retailers to defer their payment of network charges for six months will provide a buffer for retailers.
“Keeping up the operation of energy retailers is critical to maintaining competition in the market. More competition means more options and competitive prices for customers.
“It is only fair that the COVID-19 financial burden is shared throughout the energy supply chain.
“Deferral of network charges complements the AER’s recently updated Statement of Expectations of energy businesses, which outlines what we expect energy providers to do to support their customers in financial stress because of the pandemic.”
The AER’s Statement of Expectations 2 comes into effect this month and requires energy providers to help their residential and small business customers by:
- providing information about concessions, rebates and other support
- offering a payment plan that’s based on a customer’s capacity to pay with a no payment window if required
- not disconnecting anyone who is in contact with them
- immediately reconnecting anyone who may be disconnected once they make contact and waiving any associated fees
- not referring customers to debt collection agencies for recovery actions or credit default listing.
Ms Savage said that it was important that all areas of the energy market keep working together during this time.
“We will continue to work with market bodies, government and the sector to support all parts of the energy supply chain. We will strongly monitor the impact of COVID-19 on the market so together we can respond with the right solutions at the right time.”
About the AER
The Australian Energy Regulator (AER) works to make all Australian energy consumers better off, now and in the future.
- We regulate electricity networks and covered gas pipelines, in all jurisdictions except Western Australia. We set the amount of revenue that network businesses can recover from customers for using these networks.
- We enforce the laws for the National Electricity Market and spot gas markets in southern and eastern Australia. We monitor and report on the conduct of energy businesses and the effectiveness of competition.
- We protect the interests of household and small business consumers by enforcing the Retail Law. Our retail energy market functions cover New South Wales, South Australia, Tasmania, the ACT and Queensland.
We drive effective competition where it is feasible and provide effective regulation where it is not. We equip consumers to participate effectively, including through our Energy Made Easy website, and protect those who are unable to safeguard their own interests. We use our expertise to inform debate about Australia’s energy future