Call for bill relief amid home power surge
Surging household energy debts during the coronavirus pandemic have led the regulator to call for retailers to extend support for struggling customers.
Australian Energy Regulator chairwoman Clare Savage said emergency support measures, due to end within days, should be extended until at least the end of October.
"Our message is simple, we expect retailers to offer residential or small-business customers who may be in financial stress a payment plan - even if they can't afford to pay anything right now," she said.
"And any customer who is in contact with their retailers should not be disconnected.
"If you are struggling to pay your energy bill help is available. Don't ignore the problem and hope it will go away."
Preliminary data shows average household debt for electricity customers was $945.31 on July 6, up 18.15 per cent from March and nearly triple since December.
Energy Minister Angus Taylor said households were using more energy during the pandemic due to changing work and lifestyle patterns.
"That drives up energy bills, which is concerning for many Australians," he said.
"Through these extended measures, the government is ensuring energy companies are helping rather than burdening their customers during this difficult period."
The AER's updated statement of expectations in the pandemic calls for retailers to offer payment plans that customers can repay, including a "no payment window".