Depending on the circumstances, there are a few options that may help a client who is having difficulty paying their electricity or gas bills. These include:
- Payment plans
- Hardship programs
- Home Energy Emergency Assistance Scheme
- Financial counselling and other assistance
Watch this video on StudioQ for more information on where to get help.
The Queensland Government provides a number of concessions to reduce the costs of electricity and gas for people who meet certain eligibility criteria.
- Electricity Rebate : These concessions are available to customers who hold a Pensioner Concession Card, Queensland Seniors Card, Department of Veterans’ Affairs Gold Card, a Health Care Card or are Asylum Seekers with an ImmiCard. The payment is made to the energy retailer who deducts the discount from the electricity bill. Visit the Queensland Government website for information on the current rebate amounts, eligibility criteria and information on how to apply.
- Reticulated Natural Gas Rebate: These concessions are available to customers who hold a Pensioner Concession Card, Queensland Seniors Card, Department of Veterans’ Affairs Gold Card, a Health Care Card or are Asylum Seekers with an ImmiCard. The payment is made to the gas retailer who deducts the discount from the gas bill. Visit the Queensland Government website for information on the current rebate amounts, eligibility criteria and information on how to apply.
- Medical Heating and Cooling Concession: This concession helps people who have a chronic medical condition that requires the use of an air‑conditioner for cooling or heating in order to manage their condition. The payment is made directly into the nominated bank account each quarter. Visit the Queensland Government website for information on the current rebate amount, eligibility criteria and information on how to apply.
- Life Support Rebate: People who use oxygen concentrators or kidney dialysis machines supplied by Queensland Health may be eligible for this concession to help them manage the electricity costs associated with running these machines. Application forms are sent to eligible users within 14 days of receiving their machines. Information on the current rebate amounts, eligibility criteria and information on how to apply is available on the Queensland Government website.
For more information on any of the above concessions, contact the Queensland Government by calling 13 74 68 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Australian Government provides an Essential Medical Equipment Payment. This payment helps with the additional costs of running essential medical equipment or medically required heating or cooling (or both) to manage a disability or medical equipment. The payment must be cliamed through Centrelink.
Visit the Department of Human Services website for more information.
The National Energy Customer Framework (NECF) requires electricity retailers to offer instalment plans to customers who inform them that they are experiencing payment difficulties.
When negotiating instalment plans, retailers are required to take into account information they are given regarding the customer’s financial capacity to pay and ongoing electricity usage needs. The retailer must clearly outline the period of the payment plan, the number and amount of instalment payments, and how the amount of instalments is calculated. The amount of the instalments should cover existing debt owed as well as estimated usage during the period of the instalment plan.
Where appropriate, retailers must also provide information on the right to have the bill redirected to a third person, independent financial counselling and other relevant services, concessions, grants or rebates that may be available.
The requirement on retailers to offer a payment plan does not apply if a customer has had two payment plans cancelled due to non-payment within the last 12 months. In this instance, the retailer may still provide a payment plan but they are not obligated to do so under the Framework.
Go to the Queensland Department of Energy and Water Supply's website for more information on the NECF and links.
Retailer hardship programs
In addition to negotiating a payment plan, retailers must also have a financial hardship policy to provide individualised support for customers who are experiencing payment difficulty. Depending on the retailer, a hardship program may include incentive payments, energy efficiency audits or financial counselling advice. To access this support, ask to speak to the retailer’s hardship team.
Some retailers provide a dedicated phone line for financial counsellors and community sector support workers to access the hardship team directly. This can help save you time and ensure you can get timely assistance for your client.
For more information about hardship programs provided by retailers in Queensland, see the links below. When trying to access to the hardship program, it can be useful to use the name of the program for that particular retailer.
- Ergon Energy – Customer Assist Program
- Origin Energy – Power On Program
- AGL – Staying Connected Program
- EnergyAusralia – EnergyAssist Program
- Lumo Energy - Energy Account Support and Enquiries (EASE) team
- Click Energy - Financial Hardship Policy
- Dodo Power and Gas – Customer Hardship Policy
- QEnergy – Staying ON Hardship Program
- Sanctuary Energy - Customer Hardship Assistance Program
- Diamond Energy – Residential Customer Hardship Policy
- Momentum Energy – Hardship Policy
- Red Energy – Hardship Policy
- Simply Energy – Hardship Policy
- Powerdirect – Staying Connected Program
Note: Due to differences in the concessions, programs and consumer protections across states, some elements of a retailers’ hardship program may not be available in Queensland.
Home Energy Emergency Assistance Scheme (HEEAS)
The Queensland Government’s Home Energy Emergency Assistance Scheme (HEEAS) offers a one-off payment for Queensland customers who are unable to pay their electricity or gas bill due to a short-term financial crisis. Call 13 74 68 or visit the Queensland Government website for information on the eligibility criteria and how to apply.
Financial counselling and other assistance
Financial counselling is a free, independent and confidential service to help people who are in financial difficulty. Call 1800 007 007 or visit the Financial Counselling Australia website to find a Financial Counsellor in your area.
Customers who receive an income from Centrelink can access Centrepay to make automatic deductions to help pay electricity and gas bills in smaller instalments. Many retailers also offer other options such as monthly billing or direct debt. Contact your electricity or gas retailer to see what alternative payment arrangement they can offer.
Customers who encounter difficulties in dealing with an energy company, or getting access to assistance they are entitled to, can lodge a complaint with the Energy and Water Ombudsman Queensland. Call 1800 662 837 or visit the Energy and Water Ombudsman Queensland website.
QCOSS has released a number of factsheets about essential services, including providing tips for customers experiencing difficulties paying an electricity or gas bill. You can print these factsheets to hand out to clients.