On 18 February 2015, the Victorian Government announced an inquiry into best practice financial hardship programmes of energy retailers. The Essential Services Commission (ESC) was asked to conduct the inquiry, with preliminary findings reported back by the end of Aug 2015.
- On 27 Mar 2015 – the ESC published an issues paper to guide submissions and to outline how it would conduct the inquiry.
- The ESC will consult widely, review retailers current practices, conduct benchmarking and identify the separate elements of an effective hardship policy.
- The purpose of which is to identify best practise to ensure customers who cannot pay their bills in full receive the assistance they require and disconnection is only actioned as a last resort.
- A final report will be prepared for government towards the end of 2015.
- Customer disconnections are currently at their highest level for 18 years and Victoria has the highest disconnection rate in Australia.
- The ESC approves hardship policies which are framed by legislation, licencing, codes and guidelines.