This Policy applies to all residential customers living in Queensland, New South Wales, the Australian Capital Territory, Victoria, and South Australia who find it hard to pay their energy bills due to hardship.
You might experience hardship because of factors like:
- death in the family
- household illness
- family violence
- reduced income
This Policy explains:
- what we will do to help you manage your energy bills
- how we consider your circumstances and needs
- your rights as a customer in our hardship program.
You can ask a support person to contact us, such as:
- a financial counsellor
- someone who helps you manage your energy bills
We need your permission to talk to your support person.
You may provide your permission for us to deal with a third-party support person via whatever means are convenient to you.
If you would like a support person to represent you, you may request this at any time, and we will send a consent form or phone you to ensure that you consent (we will accept consent via whatever means are convenient to you).
Where you have elected a support person to act on your behalf, we will engage with that support person as we would with you.
The diagram below summarises our approach.
About our Hardship Policy
We support customers who are experiencing hardship. Electricity an essential service, so it is important we do as much as we can to help you maintain access to your supply of electricity.
We have developed this Hardship Policy in accordance with the AER sustainable payment plans framework and the AER’s Hardship Guideline to provide consistent and compliant support to all our customers. We believe early intervention is the best way to help customers who face financial difficulty pay their bills and prevent an accumulation of energy debt which could ultimately threaten a customer’s energy supply.
We have systems in place to ensure that we meet our obligations with respect to customer hardship in:
- The National Energy Retail Law
- National Energy Retail Rules
- The AER Customer Hardship Policy Guideline
- This Customer Hardship policy
Our Hardship commitment
As a b.energy customer, we will:
- Provide you with clear information in a timely manner on what assistance is available to you under this Policy
- As soon as reasonably practicable, provide you with the assistance you are entitled to under this Policy
- Be respectful, compassionate and treat your circumstances with sensitivity and respect for your privacy
- Take into account all of your circumstances which we are aware of, and, on that basis, act fairly and reasonably
- Provide you equitable access to this Policy and ensure that it is consistently applied in a transparent way
- Waive any late payment fees if you are a participating in the Hardship Program
- Maintain customer assistance programs, such as affordable payment plans
- Regularly monitor your account during your participation in our hardship program, including quarterly reviews of your payment plan to make sure it remains affordable and you are receiving the right assistance at the right time
- Be transparent and accessible and communicate to you, your nominated support person, financial counsellors and community assistance agencies when necessary
- Not disconnect your energy supply while you are in our hardship program
Accessing our Hardship Policy
You can access a printable version of our Hardship Policy via the URL/hyperlink on the homepage of our website. You can also download an electronic copy of this Hardship Policy at https://https://www.benergy.net.au/documents. If you are unable to access our website, we can provide you with a copy of this policy for free in another way. Please contact us if you would like us to provide you with a copy email you a copy or send you a copy by post.
Eligibility for b.energy’s Hardship Program
A customer experiencing hardship is a residential customer who would like to pay their energy bill but does not have the financial capacity to do so at that point in time. This situation can arise as a result of a variety of factors, both long and short term, and some of them are set out in the introduction to this policy.
If you are experiencing an inability to pay your b.energy energy bill for whatever reason, please contact us.
We will direct customers to this Policy and our Hardship Program if we believe they might be experiencing hardship.
If we decide that you are ineligible for our Hardship Program, we will contact you and let you know of the reasons why.
Re-Entry into b.energy’s Hardship Program
We will assess your individual circumstances and eligibility if you have been removed from or choose to leave the Hardship Program, but then want to re-enter our Hardship Program. Where you have left the Hardship Program because of successful completion of a previous payment plan, then we can agree to a new plan using the process outlined within policy. If you have left the Hardship Program for other reasons, then those circumstances will be reassessed. It may be the case the original payment plan needs to be modified to better fit your circumstances.
In no case will we refuse you entry into our Hardship Program on the basis of a need for you to complete any action or meet any other condition.
To assess your eligibility for the program, we will:
- first check whether you have a residential account with us.
- If you do, we will contact you and ask you some questions to help us determine if you can join the hardship program.
- If you tell us you are in financial hardship, or we think you might be experiencing financial hardship, you will be accepted into out Hardship Program.
- If we decide that you are ineligible for our Hardship Program, we will contact you and let you know of the reasons why.
What we will do to help you
We will tell you about our hardship program if:
- you tell us you are having trouble paying your bill
- you are referred to our program by a financial counsellor or other community worker
- we are concerned that you may be experiencing financial hardship.
We will recommend you speak to a staff member to help you join our hardship program if you have:
- a history of late payments
- broken payment plans
- requested payment extensions
- received a disconnection warning notice
- been disconnected for non-payment.
We can also support you to join our hardship program if you tell us:
- you are eligible for a relief grant or other emergency assistance
- you have personal circumstances where hardship support may help. For example, death in the family or job loss.
You may have trouble paying your bills for different reasons. Please contact us so we can discuss your individual situation.
Our staff are specially trained to help you with hardship. Staff will:
- ask you a few questions about your circumstances
- work out if you can join the hardship program.
We will assess your application for hardship assistance within 5 business days after contacting us.
We will let you know if you are accepted into our hardship program within 5 business days from receipt of the application.
If you are accepted into our hardship program, we will:
- tell you if you are on the right energy plan or if there is a better plan for you
- tell you about government concessions, relief schemes or energy rebates you may be able to receive
- give you ideas about how to reduce your energy use
- talk to you about a payment amount that suits your circumstances
We can send you a free copy of our Hardship Policy.
Your free copy of our Hardship Policy will be sent to you via your preferred form of written communication.
b.energy has Payment Plans options available to hardship customers:
When you are in our hardship program, we will offer you flexible payment options to suit your individual situation.
To make your payment plan, we will consider:
- how much you can pay
- how much you owe
- how much energy we expect you will use in the next 12 months.
This will help us figure out a payment plan that is right for you.
We will offer a payment plan to suit your situation. This will include payments to cover:
- what you owe
- an amount to cover your energy use.
Once we agree to a payment plan, we will send you information including:
- who you can contact for more help
- how long the payment plan will go for
- the amount you will pay each time
- how many payments you need to make
- when you need to make your payments (this is also called the frequency of the payments)
- how we worked out your payments.
We will see if another energy plan may be better for you. If you agree, we can transfer you to a better energy plan for free.
Depending on the rules in our Hardship Policy, we may be able to remove some debt, fees or charges you owe. If you miss a payment, we will contact you to see if you need help. We will contact you by your preferred form of communication.
What you must do
Tell us if your situation changes and you can no longer make the payments in your plan. We can then review your payment arrangements.
Tell us if your contact details change.
We may stop helping you if you:
- stop making payments under your plan
- do not tell us when your contact details change.
If you have had two payment plans cancelled in the last 12 months because you did not follow your plan:
- we do not have to offer you another plan
- we might disconnect your energy.
If you have successfully completed a payment plan or have been able to meet all outstanding payment obligations to b.energy, we will contact you to confirm the status of the account and completion of the payment plan. You will then be returned to b.energy’s normal billing cycle.
Steps we will take:
We will take the following steps to help you complete our Hardship Program:
- Adhere to our Hardship Commitments;
- Provide you with the supports outlined in this policy; and
- Communicate with you regularly.
Changing a Payment Plan:
Either at your request, or as a result of our regular reviews, payment plans can be modified. It is important for you to stay in contact with us, should your circumstances change so we can agree to any plan revisions.
Leaving a Payment Plan:
You may leave the Hardship Program at any time on request. You can return to normal billing and collection processes if you complete the payment plan or pay any previous bill arrears.
If you stop meeting your instalment payments b.energy will attempt to contact you by your preferred method to discuss whether there needs to be changes made to the original payment plan. We can reassess the original payment plan and make changes to help restore payments.
If this contact fails, b.energy will try again within 2 business days. If you fail to respond on our second attempt, we will make a third attempt 2 business days later. If contact is made, we can look to adjust the plan as above.
It is important that you keep in regular contact with us and let us know of any relevant change in contact details or financial circumstances. You may leave the hardship program on request, or by transferring to another retailer.
If, as a participant in the hardship program, you fail to make payments as per the agreed payment plan and refuse to engage with us, or if you transfer to another retailer, you will default back to our usual debt collections process.
If you are removed from the hardship program, you will be contacted, and we will set out the reasons for the removal from the program.
Other Supports to help you Pay your Energy Bill
Depending on the state or territory you live in, there are other supports to help you pay your energy bills.
What we will do
We will tell you about other ways you can get help to pay your energy bill, such as:
- government relief schemes
- energy rebates
- concession programs
- financial counselling services.
Information about government concessions and rebates
There are a variety of Government concession and rebate schemes that can assist low income, vulnerable or medically dependent customers. For customers in hardship, we can help customers identify concessions or rebates they may be eligible for and help with applications to the appropriate authorities.
If we become aware that you may be entitled to a concession or rebate or any other form of assistance, we will notify you by email or phone. Further information on relevant assistance programs can be found by visiting the following websites:
- New South Wales, www.service.nsw.gov.au/transaction/apply-low-income-household-rebate-supply-customers or call 13 77 88
- Queensland, visit www.communities.qld.gov.au or call 13 74 68
- South Australia, visit www.dcsi.sa.gov.au or call 1800 307 758
- ACT, visit www.revenue.act.gov.au/community-assistance/utilities-concession
- Victoria, visit www.services.dffh.vic.gov.au/ or call 1300 475 170
Our Programs and Services
As a hardship customer, you can access a range of programs and services to help you, including:
- flexible payment options
- a review of your energy plan to determine if another one of our energy plans may be more appropriate
- information about your energy use
- energy audits
- advice on concessions and other assistance that may be available to you.
What we will do
We will consider your individual situation to find the right programs (e.g. concession programs) or services that meet your needs.
We want to Check you have the right Energy Plan
What we will do
When you join our hardship program, we will talk to you about your energy use and whether you are on the right plan. If we think there is a better energy plan for you, we will:
explain why the plan is better
- ask if you’d like to transfer to the new plan for free.
We will only talk to you about energy plans we can offer.
We will work with you
If you have joined our hardship program, we will not:
charge late payment fees
- require a security deposit
make changes to your plan without your agreement. For example, we will not put you on a shortened collection cycle unless you agree first.
We can help you Save Energy
Using less energy can save you money.
What we will do
When you join our hardship program, we can give you tips to use less energy. This can be different depending on the state or territory you live in.
Most customers are unaware of simple things they can do around their home which can reduce energy consumption, thus saving them money.
These websites offer some good advice on energy savings tips to help you understand how your household appliances and energy usage affect your energy bills:
Please give us a call or email us to find out if you may be eligible for an energy audit. We will conduct an initial assessment to determine whether you would benefit from an in-home energy audit, and if so, we can help organise one for you with your consent. We can consider full or partial cover of the cost of such audits, depending on your circumstances. We will make it clear to you when we will not cover the full cost of the audit and provide you with reasons for our decision on request.
Communicating our Hardship Policy
We recognise the need to ensure that we communicate effectively with customers with different needs including:
- customers with low English literacy, including customers from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds
- customers without internet access
- customers with disability, and
- customers in remote areas
We will ensure that our customers have support with respect to communicating about the Hardship Policy and Hardship Program including:
- Referral to language services where available or appropriate;
- Communicating via phone or post in accordance with the customer’s preferred method of communication;
- Ensuring that customers aren’t disadvantaged by delays in communication; and
Referral to services that support customers with disabilities.
If you find you are struggling to meet your payment obligations or wish to discuss forms of assistance that may be available to you, please contact us as soon as possible by:
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org; or
- Phone: 1300 761 390.
If you need an interpreter, please call the Translating and Interpreting Service (TIS National) on 131 450.
b.energy will work with you to resolve any complaints you may have. If you have a complaint, you can contact us by email email@example.com or post at PO Box 429, South Melbourne VIC 3205
You can also call 1300 761 390 to leave a complaint.
Further information about how we handle complaints can be found in b.energy’s Standard Complaints and Dispute Resolution Procedures which are available on our website https://www.benergy.net.au/dispute-resolution.
As per our Standard Complaints and Dispute Resolution Procedures, if you are not satisfied with our proposed resolution, you can escalate your complaint within the business. If you are unhappy with the outcome or at any other time, you can submit your complaint to the Energy and Water Ombudsman in your state. The ombudsman schemes offer a free complaint resolution service to customers and can be contacted in the following ways:
Energy and Water Ombudsman Queensland (EWOQ)
Telephone: 1800 662 837
New South Wales
Energy & Water Ombudsman NSW (EWON)
Telephone:1800 246 545
Australian Capital Territory
ACT Civil and Administrative Tribunal (ACAT)
Telephone: 02 6207 1740
Energy and Water Ombudsman Victoria (EWOV)
Telephone: 1800 500 509
Energy & Water Ombudsman SA (EWOSA)
Telephone: 1800 665 565
Our staff (including any employees, independent contractors, sub-contractors, and agents, and other third parties who work with us and deal with our customers) will receive regular face to face and online webinar training on:
- answering customer queries about the customer hardship policy and hardship program, and
- identifying customers experiencing payment difficulties due to hardship, and
- assisting customers experiencing payment difficulties due to hardship
Our training programs will be reviewed and refreshed on a regular basis.
Staff will attend meetings and training provided by financial counsellors and community organisations to assist in understanding the issues that may be faced by customers.
A record of training will be kept for all staff.
b.energy is committed to respecting the privacy and protecting the personal information of our customers in accordance with the Privacy Act 1988 (Cth) and Australian Privacy Principles.
Review of the policy
This policy will be reviewed at least annually.
PO Box 429
South Melbourne, VIC 3205