Behind on energy bills? What happens and what to do
Anyone can fall behind on their bills for any number of reasons. It’s a stressful situation to be in given that when you’re late on paying a bill, there’s a risk of your power being disconnected. Whether it’s your electricity or gas bill in question, we’ll take you through some of the steps you can take when you’ve fallen behind. This includes when your power can be cut and how to apply for hardship arrangements in case you need a little help paying a bill.
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Late fees, power disconnection & financial hardship - can't pay your bill?
If something out of the ordinary has happened that will impact your bill payment, the first step you may want to take is to contact your energy service provider and let them know what's happening. Check out our easy to use walkthrough on how to raise a complaint with your provider. Many times, it can be resolved between you and the company. However, there’s always a chance things can’t get sorted right away. Remember that you can use Ajust to help you with your complaint.
In some cases you may not be able to make a payment due to financial reasons. If you realise you cannot pay your bill at any point, it’s best to reach out to your energy provider and let them know as soon as possible. This way, you can discuss payment options or apply for financial hardship assistance.
If you are late on paying your bill, and depending on how late you are, the issue may escalate in various ways. Here are some of the things that may happen when you are late on a bill:
- You may have received reminder letters telling you your bill is overdue
- There may be a relatively small late fee applied to your bill (which you may or may not want to dispute)
- In some circumstances, if you’ve left your bill for a bit longer, you may risk having your power cut off
Let's discuss what can happen if your bill payments are late in more detail below.
When do I get charged a late fee?
You will likely be charged a late fee on your bill if you fail to pay by the due date. How much you will be charged will depend from provider to provider so it’s good to be aware of their terms. It could be a flat fee or a small percentage of your bill.
Sometimes, your service provider could have a grace period where you can still make a payment without your bill incurring a late fee. Or if you just need a bit more time to pay, you can usually request an extension. Again, it will depend on the individual provider. If you’re not sure about the agreement you have with your provider, you could check on their website, or call or email their customer support lines.
In the event that you have received a late fee, but feel that it is incorrect, you could start by reaching out to your provider by email or by phone. Alternatively, Ajust can assist you with your bill complaint. If it’s the first time you have been late to your bill, or have a strong record of paying your bills on time, you may be able to ask the provider to waive your late fee. As always, prevention is best - so if you know that you may be late to pay your bill you should let your provider know as soon as you can. This way, you’ll have the most time to work out a solution and ideally avoid being charged a late fee in the first place.
When does my power get shut off if I'm late to pay a bill?
Cutting your power is a drastic measure on the part of your energy provider, and will always be a last resort option. There are strict rules around when a provider is allowed to turn off your power, so if you have experienced a power disconnection, make sure to contact your provider as soon as possible. Under the law, there are a certain number of steps the energy provider must follow before they can disconnect your power:
- Your energy provider must send you a bill with the amount owed, when it's due and how it can be paid.
- If this bill is unpaid, the energy provider has to send you a reminder notice with a timeframe to pay the bill.
- If the bill is still unpaid within the due date on the reminder notice, the provider will send you a disconnection warning notice.
- The provider must try to contact you again before they can disconnect your power.
If you think your power should not have been disconnected, you should contact the provider immediately. If you can’t reach an agreement, you can go to the energy ombudsman in your state or territory to help you resolve the issue with the provider.
Importantly, your power cannot be cut off in these circumstances:
- If someone in the household runs a life support machine and your provider is aware of it.
- When the debt is less than $300 and you have agreed to pay it already.
- If you already have a formal payment plan in place with your provider.
- If you’ve already lodged a complaint and they’ve confirmed there’s a hold on disconnection while the outcome of that complaint is determined.
The National Energy Retail Law (NERL) is the law that regulates the sale and supply of energy to residential and small businesses. This law applies in New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia, Tasmania, and the Australian Capital Territory. While Victoria, Western Australia and the Northern Territory have not applied the NERL, these states and territories have individual legislation that contain similar provisions to the NERL.
Get help paying your energy bills
The most important thing to do is be aware of when your bills are due so that you can avoid any late fees and potential power disconnections. If you do end up in a situation where you are late to pay your bill, openly communicate this to your provider so they know your circumstances. If there is financial hardship, your providers will have programs in place to assist you.
If you are experiencing financial hardship and cannot pay your energy bill, there are several options available to you. Here are some of the things you could do:
- Get in touch with your energy provider: This may be a good first step to take as many providers already have programs in place to assist those who may be experiencing financial hardship. This could be a payment plan or extension to pay. The available programs and eligibility will differ across each provider so contact them directly to find out.
- Government assistance schemes: There are some assistance schemes that are available through the government for eligible households. It will vary across states and territories. In NSW for example, this may be the Low Income Household Rebate, Energy Account Payment Assistance (EAPA) scheme through Service NSW.
- Charities: Many charities in Australia offer support for financial hardship, which includes assistance with energy bills. You can also access the EAPA scheme through some charities that are listed as an approved EAPA provider e.g. the Salvation Army or Anglicare.
Finally, don’t forget that in some cases your energy bill may be incorrect, or you may have received an estimated energy bill that is higher than you were expecting. If you feel that there is something wrong with your bill you can always use Ajust to help you raise a complaint with your provider.
Resolve your issue the easy way
Take the effort out of making a complaint. Ajust sends the right details to the right place – so you get the right outcome.
OVO Energy credits $185 to Sue’s account following billing issue
OVO Energy credits $185 to Sue’s account following billing issue
Bill Hero customer Sue had signed up for a special offer with OVO Energy. When she received her first bill, she knew something went wrong as it was unexpectedly high. After she struggled to get in contact with OVO Energy, Sue asked the team at Bill Hero for guidance on how she could resolve the issue. The team told Sue about Ajust - a technology platform that helped consumers resolve issues with businesses. Sue found Ajust easy to use and within just a few minutes, her complaint had been sent to OVO Energy. Just 24 hours later, Sue received a call from OVO Energy to say that had resolved the issue and credited $185 to her account.
Read about the issues consumers are facing. Have a different issue? You can still make a complaint.
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How to make complaints to the energy ombudsman
If you’re having trouble with your electricity, gas or water provider you can make a complaint to the energy ombudsman or electricity ombudsman scheme in your state or territory. Follow these easy steps to raise a complaint with the relevant energy ombudsman if you’re not able to resolve your complaint with your electricity, gas or water provider.