COVID-19, Money

COVID-19: Help with energy bills

Published on April 15, 2020 11:06 pm, by

Key points

  • If you are suffering financial hardship contact your energy provider and let them know – they may be able to help
  • If you contact your energy provider you are unlikely to have the gas or electricity disconnected even if you can’t pay the bill
  • If you can, switch to the cheapest gas and electricity plans you can find
  • Make sure you register for any government rebates or concessions you are entitled to. Usually, they cannot be backdated so register asap. State Governments offer a number of energy concessions and assistance packages which may help

New assistance options from energy companies

Energy costs are a major part of most household budgets these days and heading into winter they are only likely to increase. If you have lost your job or your income has reduced significantly it’s going to be tough paying your energy bills. The good news is there is a range of things in place to help – from energy company hardship procedures to government rebates.

The government has told energy companies that:

  • all consumers who are suffering financial hardship should be offered a payment plan or hardship arrangement (regardless of whether they meet the usual requirements for hardship)
  • no consumers gas or electricity should be disconnected without their agreement before 31 July 2020 or later
  • no customer should be referred to a debt collection agency or have their credit file updated until at least the 31 July 2020
  • they should be willing to make changes to existing payment plans that customers may have in place

The bottom line is, you won’t have the gas or electricity disconnected if you follow some simple steps. The main thing you need to keep in mind is to contact your energy company. They can’t help if they don’t know you need it.

If you are under financial pressure but you can still pay your bill

If you are still working or earning an income and you can still afford to pay the bill but you are worried things might get worse:

  • Make sure you are on the cheapest plan you can find – don’t waste a single dollar paying more than you need to for gas or electricity. The average household pays about $600 a year more than they need to for gas and electricity. That $600 is money you will need for other things so do your research, find the cheapest plan, and switch. Today! We can help you do this with MoneyBrilliant’s Bill Watch service or you can do it yourself using the government’s Energy Made Easy service.
  • Make sure you are claiming all the government benefits and rebates you are entitled to. Many states have energy rebates for seniors and low-income earners. If they are on offer, take them
  • If you need to, extend the due date for payment of your current bill
  • Ask if you can go onto a payment plan that will “smooth” your payments. This might help avoid situations where you get bill shock for example, in winter because of heating costs
  • Ask for advice from your energy company about reducing your energy costs. There are all sorts of ways to reduce your energy costs from changing your lights and appliances to changing your behaviour

If you have lost your job, been stood down or cannot afford to pay the bill

If you cannot afford to pay your bill there are a number of options available:

  • Contact your energy provider and ask them if they have a hardship program that allows you to keep the electricity or gas connected while you try to pay your bills
  • Make sure you are registered for any government rebates you are entitled to – this will make sure that you only pay what you need to pay
  • See if you can work out a payment plan with your provider, but if you can’t, try not to worry – you won’t have your gas or electricity cut off – at least not yet.
  • Make sure you have registered for income support. Read our guide to income support for people impacted by COVID-19

Government and Energy Provider assistance

The government and energy retailers in each state have specific assistance arrangements. Details of the assistance available in each state is available from the following links.

New South Wales

Victoria

Queensland

South Australia

Western Australia

Tasmania

Australian Capital Territory

Northern Territory

 

If you are concerned about the financial impact of COVID-19 or you are facing the uncertainty of losing your job or having your income significantly reduced we can help. Sign up to MoneyBrilliant and we will give you access to a host of tools and features to help you organise your finances and make better decisions about your money. We’ll also give you tailored insights about the financial assistance available from governments and businesses to help you face the economic and financial challenges caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

You can register for MoneyBrilliant online at www.moneybrilliant.com.au or download our app from the App Store or the Play Store.

 

This summary has been prepared by MoneyBrilliant Pty Ltd (AFSL 492711, ACL 493068). The information in this summary is of a factual nature only. We are not suggesting or recommending that you take any particular course of action in relation to any financial product or service. It does not take into account your personal circumstances or objectives. If you need financial advice or taxation advice you should seek advice from a licensed financial adviser or tax agent. You may also be able to access additional information from the websites of the Australian Securities and Investment Commission (ASIC) and the relevant product providers.

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Peter is the CEO of MoneyBrilliant. He has over 20 years experience in banking, insurance and accounting. Peter has three sons, ranging in age from 16 to 3, is a sport and fitness fanatic and a volunteer firefighter. He is passionate about improving people's lives through making financial services more accessible.

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