Bills Relief Open Letter: No One Falling Through the Cracks

**1 July 2020 Update**

Since publishing the following analysis of the responses to Civil Society's Open Letter for Bills Relief During COVID-19 on 20 June 2020, we received a response from Red Energy regarding their position on our call-to-action. Additionally, we received further clarification from Origin Energy about their approach to our call-to-action.

We have updated our full analysis to reflect these updates. You can access them here:

We have also amended the following analysis to reflect the new information with the updates noted in bold purple.

20 June 2020

In May 2020, a coalition of civil society organisation representing millions of NSW residents wrote an open letter to energy retailers, calling on them to proactively support customers during the coronavirus pandemic.

We asked energy companies to support customers by:

  1. Ensuring payment support and other forms of assistance are open to any customer having trouble paying their bills;
  2. Confirming unequivocally that no customers will be disconnected without their agreement during the COVID-19 pandemic till at least 31 July 2020;
  3. Pausing debt collection proceedings until at least 31 July;
  4. Waiving penalty and late fees, including additional interest charges; and
  5. Communicating clearly the forms of assistance available to their customers, simplifying the processes required to access assistance, and putting in place proactive measures to reach out to people who are late with their payments.

We addressed the letter to the CEOs of AGL, EnergyAustralia, Origin Energy, Alinta Energy and Red Energy.

We received a response from AGL, Origin Energy, Alinta Energy and Red Energy (1 July update) providing clarity about how they are implementing the five measures.

We are disappointed that EnergyAustralia did not respond to our letter. Therefore, we could not confirm directly from their CEO that they also commit to these measures. If you are a customer of EnergyAustralia, you can contact them directly about their commitment to our five asks.

1. Analysis of the Energy Companies' Responses

On the whole, AGL, Origin Energy, Alinta Energy and Red Energy (1 July update) have consistent approaches towards the five measures.

See full analysis here: 

AGL, Origin Energy, Alinta Energy and Red Energy (1 July update) will not disconnect customers until at least 31st of July 2020.

AGL, Origin Energy, and Alinta Energy have confirmed that the following supports are available if customers contact them when they are in financial trouble:

  • a range of payment supports which are available to all customers who have been affected by COVID-19, as well as access to existing hardship programs,
  • waiving late fees.

Origin Energy has since confirmed that they have waived late fees for all residential customers until at least 31st of July (1 July update). Red Energy (1 July update) has also confirmed they have never charged late fees and they are making available assistance for customers in financial difficulties.

Responses to the recommendation that debt collection practices be paused were less consistent. AGL, Alinta Energy and Red Energy (1 July update) reported that they would not refer customers to debt collection agencies or default listing. Origin Energy will continue some debt collection activities but will not default list customers during this period.

Finally, the Energy Charter's We've Got You communications affirmed that signatories to the Charter (including AGL, EnergyAustralia and Origin Energy, but not Alinta Energy or Red Energy) are committed to offering customers the following assistance:

  1. Flexible payment plans
  2. No disconnections
  3. Waiver of late fees
  4. Review of energy plan to ensure best fit
  5. Information about discounts and support.

See all the full text of the responses to our Open Letter here:


2. No One Falling Through the Cracks: Your Stories

Accessing support from energy companies has not always been straightforward, and often relies on a customer’s ability to advocate on their own behalf. This is problematic because:

  • Research shows many people are unaware of their entitlement to support during times of difficulty.
  • Access issues, including technology and language barriers, prevent many people from reaching out for assistance.
  • Reactions to financial stress will be varied and may include denial, shame, anger and depression. These reactions mean many people will not reach out for support before entering crisis.

We remain concerned that vulnerable members of the community will fall through the cracks – which is unacceptable especially during a pandemic.

As civil society, we will continue to monitor the situation in our communities. If we hear stories of people experiencing difficulty accessing assistance, we will ensure these concerns are heard by energy companies.

If you have an experience of bill shock or stress, confusion about energy bills, or would like to share an experience (either positive or negative) of engaging with your energy provider, you can send us your story through this form:


3. Other Supports Available:

  • Need some help getting assistance on how to ask your energy retailer for support?
    Visit Energy Consumer’s Australia’s Consumer Resources Page and Find Help from Energy Company Service which includes a handy script for what to say on the phone.
  • Energy and Water Ombudsman has a handy factsheet that about supports available if you have trouble paying your bill.
  • Service NSW will help you find compare energy plans, find the best deal, and access any energy rebates for which you may be eligible.
  • If you are having difficulty paying your bill, you can also access the Energy Accounts Payment Assistance Scheme (EAPA) via Service NSW or another provider.

If you have an experience of bill shock or stress, confusion about energy bills, or would like to share an experience (either positive or negative) of engaging with your energy provider, you can send us your story through this form:


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