Steps to get your utility bills under control
Work out what you can afford to pay
If you’re struggling to pay back money you owe, the first thing to do is to work out what you can actually afford to pay by doing a simple budget. How to work out what you can afford to pay.
If you can afford to pay something
Start paying the amount you can afford and get in touch with your creditor straight away to put a repayment agreement in place.
If you can’t afford to pay anything
Call us on 1800 007 007 straight away for advice.
Contact your service provider
The sooner you contact your provider, the better. They may be able to offer you more affordable options such as:
- Making sure you’re on the best plan for your usage
- Averaging out your yearly usage into regular payments so seasonal bills don’t hit as hard
- Offering an instalment payment plan for outstanding bills
- Allowing you to delay a payment
- Identifying power-hungry appliances at home so that you can moderate use – sometimes utility companies partner with community agencies that do house calls to help you assess usage
- Checking your discounts, concessions and grants eligibility
UTILITY GRANTS AND CONCESSIONS
All state and territory governments in Australia have a range of discounts and sometimes grants. These vary from state to state, but in general they comprise:
- percentage discounts on usage costs
- subsidised usage for people who use electricity for medical care
- heating and cooling schemes
- some payments towards part or whole amounts of bills
Ask your utility provider for information about concessions in your state, or refer to your state’s government website:
South Australia The Department for Communities and Social Inclusion
Queensland The Department of Energy and Water Supply
Victoria The Department of Health and Human Services
NSW The Department of Industry, Resources and Energy
ACT Australian Capital Territory – Assistance
Western Australia ConcessionsWA
Tasmania Department of Health and Human Services
Northern Territory PowerWater
Ask to speak with the ‘hardship department’
If you feel the customer service department isn’t helping, or you’re having long-term financial issues, ask to speak with the hardship department.
- For people in severe hardship, some utilities have ‘incentive payments’ or ‘payment matching’. This means that for every regular instalment you make towards paying the bill, your provider will also contribute toward your bill
- In most cases, if, through no fault of your own, you can’t afford to pay for your usage, the hardship department can keep you connected
If you can’t agree, dispute it
If you can’t come to an agreement that you think is fair, you have a right to seek ‘external dispute resolution’ if it’s available in your state or territory. This free and independent service gives you an opportunity to explain how you can work with your provider to get back on track with payments. Refer to Dispute Resolution (Step 2).
Speak to one of our financial counsellors
If your problem still hasn’t been solved, or you’re feeling overwhelmed, call us on 1800 007 007 to speak with one of our financial counsellors.
- Don’t use your credit card to pay your bills – this will only add to your debt
- Don’t be tempted to go to a payday (fast loan) lender. You could end up further in debt and in even more financial difficulty. Instead speak to your creditor to ask for hardship.
What should I do if?
I've got a disconnection notice
In every state/territory in Australia, there are rules about when and how you can be disconnected. Your provider must offer you hardship assistance (on request) and give notice before disconnection.
If you’ve received a disconnection notice:
- Contact your utility provider immediately
- Tell them you’re in financial hardship
- Ask them not to disconnect you
- If the energy provider says it will proceed with the disconnection, lodge a complaint with the Energy and Water Ombudsman.
I've already been disconnected
our first step is to immediately contact the energy provider and request a reconnection.
If they refuse to reconnect you, contact the Energy and Water Ombudsman in your state/territory immediately.
- try to arrange for reconnection
- help you negotiate repaying your energy debt
- investigate whether the company followed the correct process for disconnection (Victorians may be eligible for compensation payment if the correct process wasn’t followed)
If the Ombudsman isn’t able to help you, call to speak with one of our financial counsellors on 1800 007 007.
KNOW YOUR RIGHTS
ABOUT DOOR-TO-DOOR SALES
If a door-to-door representative convinced you to sign a contract in your home, you may be able to cancel it.
If a door-to-door representative persuaded you to sign a gas, electricity or water contract in your home, you may be able to cancel the contract:
- During the 10-day “cooling off” period that applies for all contracts entered into in a home, or
- If you’ve been misled by a high-pressure sales pitch that’s not true or they’ve falsely claimed the service would save you money. Remember to include cancellation fees from your old service provider when assessing a ”discount”.
If the service provider refuses to cancel the service, contact the Energy and Water Ombudsman.