Help paying energy bills
If you are having trouble managing the cost of your energy bills, there are a number of ways you can get help.
The less energy you use, the less you pay for. Do a home energy audit to see how you are using energy in your home and follow our easy energy saving tips to cut down on your energy use. Calculate your appliance running costs to see how different appliances in your home contribute to your energy bills.
You may also be able to access either temporary or ongoing financial help.
Use the concession finder or phone the ConcessionsSA Hotline on 1800 307 758 to see if you are eligible for a state government concession. Energy-related concessions include:
- Energy bill concession
- Medical heating and cooling concession
- Cost of living concession
- Residential park resident concession
- Home dialysis electricity concession
If you need help with the additional costs of running essential medical equipment or medically required heating and cooling, you may be eligible for the Australian Government’s essential medical equipment payment.
Energy retailers offer a variety of payment options to help people budget for their bills. Some are available to everyone, and some are especially to assist people experiencing financial hardship.
Under the National Energy Retail Law 2011, your energy retailer must offer you a payment plan if you advise them you are having difficulty paying your bill, or if they believe you are having difficulty paying the bill and need assistance.
Payment date extensions
If you tell your retailer you are unable to pay a bill by its due date, they may extend the due date to give you extra time to pay without incurring late fees. You must contact your retailer before the due date to ask for an extension.
Paying energy bills in instalments
Your retailer may be able to use your existing consumption history to forecast your annual consumption costs and divide this by the frequency of payments you choose, be that monthly, fortnightly or weekly. Your retailer may have a name for this system, such as bill smoothing, Even Pay, Easi Pay or periodic payments. Your meter will still be read throughout the year and your payment amounts adjusted accordingly if you are over- or underpaying.
If you are experiencing financial difficulties, even if you are not a hardship customer (see below), you can negotiate a personalised payment plan with your retailer based on your financial circumstances. A payment plan is an agreement between you and your retailer to make small, frequent instalment payments for your energy use and any debt owed, rather than trying to budget for quarterly bills.
Energy retailers do not have to offer you a payment plan if you are not experiencing financial difficulties, or if you have previously defaulted on two or more payment plans in the past 12 months.
Hardship programs for people with financial difficulties
If you are experiencing temporary or long-term financial difficulties, you should tell your retailer as soon as possible and ask to enter their hardship program.
All energy retailers in South Australia must have programs available for customers who are experiencing financial hardship, in accordance with their hardship policy. If you are a hardship customer, the National Energy Customer Framework says that your retailer must offer you a payment plan that takes into account:
- your capacity to pay
- any debt you owe to the retailer
- your expected energy consumption needs over the following 12 month period.
Your retailer must also offer you the choice of making instalment payments in advance or in arrears.
Your retailer may also offer further help under their hardship policy, including:
- access to support services, such as concessions, rebate programs and financial counselling
- advice about saving energy in the home.
You should only agree to a hardship payment plan you can realistically meet on an ongoing basis. You may also need to look at how you can lower your energy use as a way of reducing your bills.
Your retailer can’t disconnect your energy supply if you are making the agreed payments of your hardship payment plan. If you do not make the agreed payments, you risk having your hardship plan cancelled and your service disconnected.
Access to a hardship team can’t be denied
Most hardship programs are accessed through the retailer’s customer service centre. Customer service staff shouldn’t deny access to the hardship team or force you to agree to a payment plan or make a payment before speaking to the hardship team.
If the customer service staff member is unaware of the company’s hardship program or is not allowing access to the appropriate team, ask to speak with a manager. If the request is refused, contact the Energy and Water Ombudsman SA (EWOSA).
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132 461 – Natural gas and electricity customers
Can’t agree on a hardship program payment plan?
If you and your retailer can’t agree to appropriate payment plan terms and you think the retailer is being unreasonable, contact EWOSA.
If you're experiencing financial stress, there are services that can help. You might be able to get:
- emergency financial help
- help with utility bill case management
- free financial counselling
- loans and micro-finance.
Find out about getting different types of financial aid.
If you receive Centrelink income support payments and are in severe financial hardship, you may be able to access a one-off crisis payment.