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Consumer resources

Energy Consumers Australia is the national voice for households and small businesses, working directly with governments, energy companies and other organisations to improve outcomes for all energy consumers.

The shocks of 2020/2021 including bushfires, floods and the COVID-19 pandemic are putting unprecedented health and financial pressure on many Australian households and small businesses. We understand that many people across the country are finding it difficult to manage their electricity and gas bills.

This page directs you to trusted information about the help that is available for household and small business energy consumers.

Assistance with bill estimation issues

A number of consumers have come forward in recent times with queries or complaints regarding bill estimations that have resulted in much higher than expected energy bills.

Retailers may use an estimation to determine your bill if a meter reader has been unable to access your meter for any reason. However, anecdotal evidence suggests that the instance of such estimated bills is increasing. Energy Consumers Australia is concerned by some of the accounts that have recently emerged and will be following up with retailers to try and understand why this might be happening.

What to do if you receive a bill estimation you are unhappy with

If your bill has been estimated, it must say so. This may appear as the letter ‘e’ or the word ‘estimated’ next to your usage charge.

You may be getting an estimated meter read for the first time, or it may be the first time you have noticed.  If you have received an estimated meter read, and particularly if its larger than usual, here are the steps you should take:

  • First, check that nothing has changed at your property that would make accessing your meter harder than it was before.
  •  Take a photo  of your meter – this can be counted as a self meter read and your retailer may be required to accept such readings.
  • Consult your retailer’s website or call centre. Many retailers offer detailed advice on how to carry out a self meter read. Follow these instructions if you can.
  • There are some situations where you may not be able to submit a self-meter read or your retailer may reject it. This can include where your self read is lower than a previous actual meter reading or where the retailer believes the meter may be faulty.
  • A self read also needs to be provided to your retailer before the payment due date in order to be receive consideration.
  •  Ring your retailer to discuss your situation. Explain that you have taken a self meter read and ask that they adjust your bill based on what it shows.
  •  If your retailer rejects your self meter read ask how you can make a complaint or challenge their decision.

Depending on whether the complaint gets resolved you can contact your relevant ombudsman to take it further (see links below).

If you are unsuccessful in challenging your bill and need help with a bill that is causing hardship consider contacting the National Debt Helpline on 1800 007 007. The hotline can help you find individual counsellors and organisations near to where you live.

Should you require more detailed information or advice the Australian Energy Council has prepared this factsheet about estimated bills.

Assistance with Covid-19 billing or debts

The Australian Energy Regulator is running a standby Statement of Expectations of energy businesses to provide extra protection and support to consumers and the energy market during the COVID-19 pandemic. This includes no debt referrals and fees and no disconnections to consumers who may be in financial stress only in the event of ‘stay-at-home’ orders. We encourage all consumers experiencing debt or difficulty paying their energy bills to speak to their retailer as soon as possible to arrange a payment plan or hardship arrangement.

Households

Start by contacting your retailer

If you’re having trouble with your bill, first contact your energy retailer and ask them what your options are. They can put you on a payment plan, defer bills, or find a cheaper plan for you. The energy companies have special teams whose job it is to help people who are experiencing hardship so please don’t hesitate to pick up the phone or visit their website.

Find your energy retailer

We have developed Step By Step guides to walk you through how to talk to your retailer:

If you are having difficulty contacting your energy provider or you have not been able to get the support you need, there are other places you can go for help.

Contact your ombudsman service

Whilst the current circumstances are difficult, the Ombudsman in your state is always the best contact if you are not satisfied with the response from your energy company. Ombudsman offices are the best contact for escalating your issue.

Ombudsman Phone Website
NSW 1800 246 545 EWON Website
VIC 1800 500 509 EWOV Website
SA 1800 665 565 EWOSA Website
WA 1800 754 004 EWOWA Website
QLD 1800 662 837 EWOQ Website
TAS 1800 001 170 EWOT Website
ACT 02 6207 1740 ACAT Website
NT 08 8999 1818 Ombudsman NT

Call the National Debt Helpline

There are two national not-for-profit services that run free financial counselling helplines and chat services, to help individuals and small businesses cope with financial hardship and debt. Visit the National Debt Helpline or call 1800 007 007. Small business owners and sole traders can call the Small Business Debt Helpline on 1800 413 828.

Other ways to manage your energy bills

Using the energy you need to keep your home at a healthy temperature is really important as winter approaches. Some practical ways you can save on your energy costs without compromising your health and safety while at home are:

  • Set your heating between 18°C and 20°C. For every degree you increase heating, you increase energy use between 5% and 10%.
  • Rug up with suitable clothes and blankets first, particularly if you use a portable heater that can use a lot of energy.
  • Use the ‘Economy mode’ on your heater.
  • Let light in during the day, and then close windows and curtains to keep the warmth in
  • Wash your clothes in cold water
  • Turn off lights and appliances when not using them
  • Close the doors to rooms you’re not using
  • Use draught stoppers (door snakes) or towels to stop air leaks under doors

Small Businesses

Start by contacting your retailer

If you’re running a small business and need assistance, your first point of contact should be your energy retailer.

Find your energy retailer

Contact the energy ombudsman

Phone numbers and websites for the Ombudsman in your state are the same for households and can be found in the table above.

Dedicated support services for small businesses

Small businesses can find information and get support about managing bills:

Small business representative bodies

Government Programs and Support

The Australian Government has a section of their website dedicated to the impact of COVID-19 on the energy sector with additional information on support for Australian businesses and Australian households.

This includes links to information about the new JobKeeper, JobSeeker and other schemes.

This website also contains links to the relevant government information for each state.

Visit energy.gov.au here. 

The Federal Government and some state governments also provide comparison services that help people find a better energy deal for their household or small business.

Share your story with us

Feedback from consumers like you about the challenges you’re facing and your experience getting extra help and support gives us the information we need to raise issues with energy companies and get changes made to improve services for everyone.

Please let us know via our Share Your Story form.