Many utility companies and financial services have hardship programs to assist people who are experiencing difficulties in paying their bills. All energy retailers and telecommunications providers must have a hardship program.
They vary in what services they provide but often assist customers to manage their debt and stay connected to the service. To access these programs, or get help from a financial counsellor, call the service provider and ask for their hardship team.
More information on these hardship programs:
Visit the Australian Communications Consumer Action Network (ACCAN) website for links to all the telecommunication companies’ hardship policies.
Visit the Australian Energy Regulator’s webpage for links to all the energy company hardship policies.
If you are struggling with your loan or mortgage repayments ask your lender for a hardship variation to make your loan more manageable. A hardship variation is a change to the terms of the loan, based on financial hardship. Visit the Australian Banking Association website for a list of their members’ hardship policies.
The Australian Securities and Investments Commission’s (ASIC) MoneySmart website provides guidance on how to approach your lender if you are struggling with your debts.
Tolls and toll fines
Toll company Transurban’s Linkt Assist hardship program and team help people who cannot pay their tolls and toll fines.
Transurban is again extending its toll credit scheme for Linkt toll road customers hardest hit financially by COVID-19. Originally due to end on September 30, the toll credit support will now be available nationally until the end of the year.
If you would like further information, or to support your clients submit applications for the credits please see visit the Linkt website.
Eligible customers include:
- Customers who lost their job due to COVID-19 and are still unemployed
- Customers who have experienced significantly reduced hours or income
- Small business owners with <20 employees who have experienced significantly reduced income
- Existing Linkt Assist customers whose situation has worsened as a result of COVID-19 (case by case assessment)
Phone and internet providers
Check with your individual provider to see what support they may be offering.
ACCAN is also providing frequently updated information on Assistance Packages.
If you are unable to resolve your phone and internet issues with your provider, contact the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman on 1800 062 058.
Electricity, gas and water bills
The Queensland Government is providing a $200 utilities rebate for all Queensland households (including the $50 Asset Ownership Dividend already announced) to offset the cost of water and electricity bills. The rebate will be automatically applied through household electricity bills.
Another $50 credit off power bills will follow from 1 September 2020: a dividend payment to Queenslanders as shareholders in the state’s publicly-owned energy businesses.
Support from energy suppliers
Ergon Energy Retail and Ergon Network have stopped disconnecting power for unpaid bills in regional Queensland for households experiencing hardship due to the ongoing impacts of coronavirus.
In South East Queensland, where there are several retailers, Energex has ceased disconnections for one large retailer and is finalising arrangements with the rest.
Energy hardship programs
Energy retailers must have a financial hardship policy to provide support for customers who are experiencing payment difficulty. 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 on what to do if you can’t pay an energy bill and links to retailers’ hardship programs visit the Can’t pay an electricity or gas bill page on Community Door.
Home Energy Emergency Assistance Scheme (HEEAS)
The Queensland Government’s Home Energy Emergency Assistance Scheme (HEEAS) offers a one-off payment of up to $720 for Queensland customers who are unable to pay their electricity or gas bill due to a short-term financial crisis. Clients should contact their energy retailer to request the HEEAS application form. Call 13 74 68 or visit the Queensland Government website for information.
If you are experiencing difficulty in paying your water and sewerage bill, get in touch with your water provider as soon as possible to discuss your situation. Most have a designated hardship program and offer flexible payment plans.
Urban Utilities has provided answers to some frequently asked questions about water and wastewater services.
For more information on what to do if you can’t pay a water bill visit the Can’t pay a water bill section on Community Door.
To support customers through this time of uncertainty, Australian banks are stepping up with more clearly defined financial relief strategies.