Help & advice
Financial Hardship Customer Charter
IMS Document: PO3207
Policy Owner: Credit Manager
Date of issues: 21 Nov 2016
Date of next review: 21 Nov 2018
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ActewAGL’s Financial Hardship Customer Charter is in line with the requirements of the National Energy Customer Framework, ACT Consumer Protection Code, the NSW Electricity Supply (General) Regulations 2001 and the Gas Supply (Natural Gas Retail Competition) Regulation 2001.
ActewAGL recognises that some residential customers may, at times, be unable to meet their utility payment obligations. The key objective of the Staying Connected program is to assist those customers so that they remain connected to their utility services by offering flexible and affordable payment plans.
ActewAGL considers that a customer in financial hardship is a small retail customer who ‘cannot pay’ as opposed to ‘will not pay’.
Disconnection of utility services for genuine hardship customers is a last resort option and ActewAGL will not disconnect a customer whilst they are actively participating in the Staying Connected program.
ActewAGL’s Staying Connected Program will be reviewed periodically to ensure it remains sensitive to the customer’s needs and remains an effective policy in line with industry and regulatory standards and requirements.
ActewAGL will assist customers to self assess by:
Identification by ActewAGL
ActewAGL will proactively identify customers who may potentially be facing hardship by:
ActewAGL’s objective is to support customers facing short and long-term financial distress and/or hardship by:
A letter will be sent to the customer, outlining this agreement as well as their rights and responsibilities. ActewAGL will liaise with customers periodically to ensure that the arrangements remain appropriate for their individual circumstances.
ActewAGL customers identified as being in financial distress or hardship will be offered the opportunity to:
ActewAGL has a number of flexible payment methods available and will work with customers on the Staying Connected program to choose the payment method that best suits their needs. These payment methods include:
Government rebates and concessions
ActewAGL will ensure that a customer’s eligibility for any rebates or government concessions will be assessed and applied where appropriate when entering the Staying Connected program.
Customers will be advised of or directed to the following.
ActewAGL will assist those customers with no computer access.
ActewAGL may refer a customer to an independent financial counseling service so that their individual circumstances can be assessed as a whole. ActewAGL will actively work with a financial counsellor who is assisting a customer to put an affordable payment plan in place for their ActewAGL account.
ActewAGL may also accept referrals from other consumer organisations for those customers that they have assessed being in hardship and requiring assistance for their utility bills. Customers who are then assessed over the telephone will be advised immediately of their eligibility for the Staying Connected Program. Customers who are referred via email will be contacted within one business day.
ActewAGL will, where appropriate, refer a customer to organisations that provide home energy audits.
Customer rights and responsibilities
To be eligible to participate in the Staying Connected program, the customer must:
In addition customers must demonstrate a willingness to pay their utility bills by:
A customer will be allowed two payment arrangements within a twelve month period. Customers who are uncooperative or abusive will not be assisted.
Customers on life support or other special medical circumstances will automatically be eligible for assistance under ActewAGL’s Staying Connected program if required.
Range of programs to assist customers in hardship
ActewAGL will assist customers by:
Removing a customer from the Staying Connected program
Customers may be removed from ActewAGL’s program if:
ActewAGL will attempt to contact the customer over the phone and in writing to warn them that they may be removed from the Staying Connected program.
ActewAGL will also attempt to contact an authorised alternative contact (for example, the customer’s financial counsellor) in order to prompt contact from the customer prior to them being removed from the Staying Connected program.
If there is no response from the customer after attempts to contact them, they will be advised of their removal from ActewAGL’s program in writing.
Accepting a repeat Staying Connected customer
Customers who have been previously removed from the Staying Connected Program are not excluded from re-acceptance, but must meet eligibility criteria to be reconsidered.
Once the customer has been reassessed and is considered eligible for ActewAGL’s Staying Connected Program they may, as a requisite of being accepted, be required to set up automatic payments from Centrepay or some other deduction program.
The customer must acknowledge their obligations and responsibilities under the program prior to being accepted. This may be done over the telephone, or in person.
Transparency and accessibility
Greater transparency will promote confidence with customers in understanding the Staying Connected program.
ActewAGL will provide customers easy access to this policy and if requested will send a copy to the customer by mail at no charge. All relevant Staying Connected literature will be available on ActewAGL’s website.
ActewAGL will provide on-going training to all front line staff on the Staying Connected program to maintain the high level of skill required and expected by ActewAGL for dealing with customers in financial hardship in a professional, sensitive and respectful manner.
Small retail customer
A small retail customer is a person who:
Customers have the right to escalate any enquiry to other organisations such as the following.
For ACT customers:
For NSW customers:
Further information regarding the ActewAGL internal complaints process is available on the ActewAGL website.
Other agencies and programs
ActewAGL may refer customers to the following services which are listed in the White Pages.
ACT Energy Efficiency Improvement Scheme
Eligible customers will be referred to the Energy Efficiency Improvement Scheme (EEIS). In an effort to reduce consumers energy use, the ACT Government has introduced the EEIS.
Energy Grant scheme NSW
The Energy Grants scheme is available to customers who hold a Pensioner Concession Card, Health Care Card or Veterans’ Affairs Gold Card. Customers can contact the following agencies:
Energy Accounts Payment Assistance (EAPA)
ActewAGL will refer customers to a range of community welfare organisations who distribute EAPA vouchers.
Position: Staying Connected Supervisor – Retail Finance
Responsibility: Implement and maintain policy
Financial Hardship Policy – PO3202
Version: 1, Author/Editor: Harvey Escribano, Description of changes: Minor amendments in line with NECF minimal requirements, Approved by/date: Australian Energy Regulator 2 March 2012
Version: 2, Author/Editor: Kirsty Greenwood, Description of changes: Minor amendments to links and EEIS information, Approved by/date: Australian Energy Regulator 2 March 2012
Version: 3, Author/Editor: Charles Sage, Description of changes: Minor amendments in line with internal policy requirements, Approved by/date: Australian Energy Regulator 2 March 2012
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