EnergyAustralia Chief Customer Officer Mark Collette is appealing to households and businesses to get in touch the moment it looks like it will become more difficult to pay a power bill.
EnergyAustralia supports around 20,000 vulnerable household customers in New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland and South Australia through its EnergyAssist hardship program, and provides tailored assistance to several hundred businesses each month.
After the Coronavirus pandemic hit, the energy retailer began ramping-up its help to customers by:
- Hiring and training new EnergyAssist team members;
- Broadening access to payment plans and payment extension schemes to people financially affected by the Coronavirus pandemic; and
- Launching the Rapid Business Assist program for small businesses.
Mark said that while call waiting times had sometimes been longer than usual, it is still better to get in touch the moment it looks as if paying an energy bill will be difficult.
EnergyAustralia Chief Customer Officer Mark Collette said:
“With the Australian economy suffering from the impacts of the Coronavirus pandemic, some households and businesses will inevitably run into financial difficulties. We’ve already seen a significant increase in people contacting us about their power bills.
“Please – don’t let the issue build up. The earlier people get in touch the better we can help with payment plans and bill extensions. We can put people in touch with trained financial advisors to talk about their individual situation. And we can connect people with government support programs that they may not have known about.
“Most importantly, debt collection or disconnection activity is suspended while a customer is participating in EnergyAssist. It’s our stay-connected guarantee.
“For small businesses, we’ve established Rapid Business Assist. Our specialist advisors can discuss ways to lower energy consumption, government energy relief subsidies and tailored payment schedules. If a business is in hibernation, we can help with free disconnections and reconnections to save them money.
“Our phone lines have been incredibly busy and we’re so grateful for people’s patience. But the investments we’re making are helping us get on top of the call backlog and get support to people in need.”
Notes to editors:
The EnergyAustralia EnergyAssist program supports around 20,000 residential customers in financial distress. Customers get access to measures including tailored payment plans, energy audits and protection from disconnection activity. They also receive information on grant programs and advice on energy usage.
To help customers through the pandemic, we’re more than doubling EnergyAssist. This includes:
- Hiring another 40 specially trained hardship agents, expanding our team to around 70 people;
- Adding another 25 agents to handle service calls, and;
- Broadening access to the program to include people financially impacted by the Coronavirus pandemic.
The additional resources will help get support to customers sooner. Since the beginning of April 2020, EnergyAustralia has had a 67 per cent increase in average daily calls from customers in hardship1. In the past two months the retailer has set-up nearly 10 per cent more payment extensions for residential customers than normal; the number for business is 32 per cent higher.
Also, EnergyAustralia is participating in an industry-wide drive to support customers as a participant in the Energy Charter, an initiative aimed at uniting the energy industry to deliver better service for Australians. For example, Energy Charter members are waiving late-payment fees and connection costs for people experiencing financial difficulty.
Managing winter bills: www.energyaustralia.com.au/business/help-and-support/faqs/reducing-energy-and-bills
Working from home: www.energyaustralia.com.au/blog/energy-efficiency-tips-working-home
Energy efficiency tips for business: www.energyaustralia.com.au/blog/work/how-energy-efficiency-can-help-your-business
The Energy Charter: www.theenergycharter.com.au/
Aid from Australian state governments is also available to people finding it hard to pay their energy bills. The EnergyAssist team can refer customers to relevant agencies and departments for support including rebates and grants.
- Residential customers can call the EnergyAssist team directly on 1800 558 643.
- Business customers call 1800 709 985.
All other customers are encouraged to use online channels, including the “chat” function via our website, so we can answer more calls from those heavily impacted by the Coronavirus pandemic.
 As at 18 May 2020