Payment plans are one of the main ways that energy retailers can help customers who are experiencing financial difficulties to better manage their energy bills. Under the National Energy Retail Law and Rules energy retailers must establish payment plans by having regard to a customer’s capacity to pay, any amount they owe, and how much energy they expect to use over the next year.
The AER has worked collaboratively with a wide range of stakeholders to develop a good practice framework for assessing customers’ capacity to pay.
The Sustainable payment plans framework (the Framework) is intended to improve the quality of capacity to pay conversations while still allowing flexibility and encouraging retailers to offer extra assistance to customers. Its aim is to achieve better outcomes by helping customers and retailers agree to payment plans that are affordable and sustainable.
The Framework consists of:
- a set of principles that should guide retailers’ capacity to pay conversations with customers and
- a flow chart outlining good practice actions and considerations at different stages of a payment plan, including: determining the customer’s capacity to pay, reviewing the payment plan, helping customers in severe financial difficulty, dealing with missed payments and completing a payment plan.
A current list of retailers that have adopted the Framework is available on the Experiencing trouble paying your energy bills page.
This project follows our 2015 review of energy retailers’ customer hardship policies and practices.
Findings of that review included numerous examples of good practice in regard to some retailers’ approaches to negotiating affordable repayment amounts, but also practices and attitudes that contributed to poor customer outcomes.
We noted that we would work with retailers and other stakeholders to develop a good practice approach to help improve outcomes for customers.