Obtaining a copy of this Hardship Policy
We send our customers a copy off our Hardship Policy in our welcome packs. We can also send you a free copy of our Hardship Policy in accordance with your preferred method of receiving written communication.
Other ways we provide access to this policy include
You can call our Customer Relations Team on 1300 933 039 or our Hardship Team directly on 02 9113 0404 to
obtain a copy of this Hardship Policy. You can also email our Hardship Team directly
- a reference to this Hardship Policy in online customer bills
- inclusion of this policy in paper bills
- assisting customers to access interpreter services
- helping our customers to access services for the hearing and speech impaired, and
- the option to receive customer bills or this policy in large print.
This policy applies to all residential customers living in QLD, NSW, TAS, SA and ACT who find it hard to pay their energy bills due to hardship.
You might experience hardship because of factors like:
- death in the family
- household illness
- family violence
- reduced income.
Falling on times of financial difficulty can happen to anyone. We understand that sometimes our customers need extra flexibility to pay their energy bills, and we care about assisting them to find ways to manage their energy account. Whether it’s providing minimum forms of assistance to all residential customers to help them avoid getting into debt, or for residential customers who have an outstanding balance, Electricity in a Box can provide options that suits each customer’s needs. This policy explains:
- what we will do to help you manage your energy bills
- how we consider your circumstances and needs
- your rights as a customer in our Hardship Program.
Electricity in a Box has systems in place to enable us to meet our obligations with respect to customer hardship in:
1.1. Third party/Support Person
- the Retail Law, and
- the Retail Rules, and
- the AER Customer Hardship Policy Guideline, and
- This hardship policy
You can ask a support person to contact us, such as:
We need your permission to talk to your support person. Where you have elected a representative to act on your behalf, Electricity in a Box will engage with the representative according to the level of authorisation you’ve consented to. To authorise a support person, contact our Customer Relations Team on 1300 933 039.
1.2. What we will do to help you
Our plan is to work with you to set up an arrangement that fits your circumstance and assists you to:
- a financial counsellor
- someone who helps you manage your energy bills.
While you are on the Hardship Program, we’ll also:
- Pay your on-going energy use in manageable instalments
- Understand how to become more energy efficient
- Reduce and pay off your energy debt.
Although we want our customers to feel comfortable approaching us, we understand that starting a
conversation about money troubles can be tough. For this reason, we may also look out for early warning
signs or triggers that our customers may need support.
The following steps will be followed to identify a customer that may be experiencing hardship
- Make sure your energy supply remains connected
- Assist you in applying for any relevant government and non-government assistance or grants
- Offer you the most suitable energy plan for their needs
- Provide support aimed at minimising energy costs
If a customer is flagged as a potential hardship customer, we will provide them with information on the following assistance options:
- Hardship Team reviews reports weekly (including late or unpaid bills, regular payment extensions, government assistance received)
- Hardship Team will determine if these indicators constitute a customer going through hardship (for example customer is two bills behind)
- Customers determined to be going through hardship will be provided information to help them
We will tell you about our Hardship Program if:
- Our Regular Payment Plans which enable our customers to pay energy costs and debt over an agreed
length of time
- Advice about the likely cost of future energy use and how costs may be lowered, based on our
customer’s pattern of energy use
- Information on any assistance from government or non-government organisations, including energy
concessions and grants our customers may be eligible for
- Information on how our customers are progressing towards lowering their energy costs
- Information to ensure our customers are on the right plans to minimise their energy costs
- For those customers that are unable to meet their ongoing energy costs, we will provide additional support and assistance to become more energy efficient
- Options for payment of ongoing energy use being made separately to any outstanding balance
Meaningful and timely communication sits at the heart of the Hardship Assistance Program. If you are facing or expecting hardship or payment difficulties, we encourage you to contact us personally, or through a support person
We’re eager to give you information about the Hardship Assistance Program and provide assistance to get
you back on track as soon as possible. We understand that this is a sensitive matter, we will make contact with you within 5 business days using your preferred contact method.
We will recommend you speak to a staff member to help you join our Hardship Program if you have:
- you tell us you are having trouble paying your bill
- you are referred to our program by a financial counsellor or other community worker
- we are concerned that you may be experiencing financial hardship.
We can also support you to join our Hardship Program if you tell us:
- a history of late payments
- broken payment plans
- requested payment extensions
- received a disconnection warning notice
- been disconnected for non-payment.
You may have trouble paying your bills for different reasons. Please contact us so we can discuss your
Our staff are specially trained to help you with hardship. Staff will:
- you are eligible for a relief grant or other emergency assistance
- you have personal circumstances where hardship support may help. For example, death in the family or job loss.
We will assess your application for hardship assistance by three business days
We will let you know if you are accepted into our Hardship Program within five business days from receipt of the application.
If you are accepted into our Hardship Program, we will:
- ask you a few questions about your circumstances
- work out if you can join the Hardship Program.
If you have any questions about our Hardship Assistance Program, call us on 02 9113 0404 (Monday to
Friday, 9.00am to 5.00pm AEST) and we’ll be happy to help. To access our Financial Hardship Policy, visit electricityinabox.com.au/hardship-policy
- tell you if you are on the right energy plan or if there is a better plan for you
- tell you about government concessions, relief schemes or energy rebates you may be able to receive
- give you ideas about how to reduce your energy use
- talk to you about a payment amount that suits your circumstances
2. Payment Options
2.1. What we will do There are different payment options available to hardship customers, including
Our Regular Payment Plans are designed to assist our customers manage their payments in regular instalments. These instalments can be made weekly, fortnightly or monthly. We will work with you to arrange a payment plan that suits your needs.
When you are in our hardship program, we will offer you flexible payment options to suit your individual situation
We will see if another energy plan may be better for you. If you agree, we can transfer you to a better energy plan for free.
Depending on the rules in our hardship policy, we may be able to remove some debt, fees or charges you owe.
Working with you we will consider:
- how much you can pay
- how much you owe
- how much energy we expect you will use in the next 12 months.
This will help us figure out a payment plan that is right for you.
We will offer a payment plan to suit your situation. This will include payments to cover:
- what you owe
- an amount to cover your energy use
Once we agree to a payment plan, we will send you information including:
- who you can contact for more help how long the payment plan will go for
- the amount you will pay each time
- how many payments you need to make
- when you need to make your payments (this is also called the frequency of the payments)
- how we worked out your payments.
You can choose to use Centrepay, if you are eligible
Centrepay is a free service you can use to help pay your bills. Centrepay can automatically take an amount of money from your Centrelink payments to go toward energy bills and expenses.
Alternatively, if you aren’t eligible for CentrePay, we will be happy to give you more information on our other payment options.
Monitoring and reviewing our customer’s energy plan and Regular Payment Plan
If at any point, our customers fail to make a payment by the date payable and they’re having difficulty keeping up with their payments, we ask that our customers contact us so we can discuss their options.
The Hardship Assistance team will check to see whether a customer’s energy plan is the best fit for their needs and will let them know if there might be a more suitable energy plan.
We also recognise that not all customers will contact us if they experience further financial difficulties, so we’ll periodically review Regular Payment Plans to ensure customers are on track with their payments and if anything changes, we will make contact.
If you miss a payment, we will contact you to see if you need help. We will contact you by your preferred method of contact on at least two occasions in order to allow you to respond. These contacts will be
- two business days after the payment due date
- Seven business days after first contact attempt
2.2. What you must do
Tell us if your situation changes and you can no longer make the payments in your plan. We can then review your payment arrangements.
Tell us if your contact details change.
Where customers are facing changes in their circumstances or are unable to propose a suitable payment arrangement, we will work together to determine how best to adjust the arrangement so that it’s achievable. This might include accepting payments of different amounts at different time periods, extending the repayment period, or increasing the time a customer has to reduce their energy usage if appropriate.
Any decision to stop hardship assistance is a difficult one, and one that we don’t take lightly.
We may stop helping you if you:
- stop making payments under your plan
- do not tell us when your contact details change.
If you have had two payment plans cancelled in the last 12 months because you did not follow your plan:
- we do not have to offer you another plan
- we might disconnect your energy
3. Other support to help you pay your energy bill
Depending on the state or territory you live in, there are other supports to help you pay your energy bills
3.1. What we will do
We will tell you about other ways you can get help to pay your energy bill, such as:
- government relief schemes
- energy rebates
- concession programs
- financial counselling services.
3.2. What we need you to do
If you find out you are eligible for these programs, let us know as soon as possible so we can help you.
4. Our programs and services
4.1 Determining Eligibility for the Hardship Assistance Program
When you enter the Hardship Assistance program you can expect to go through the following steps, which are designed to help you navigate the program and get back on track with your energy costs.
Step 1: Assessment
Step 2: Payment Plans
Step 3: Monitoring and energy efficiency advice
- Step 1: Assessment – first we will assess whether you are eligible for assistance under the Hardship Program. In this step we will ask you questions regarding what you can afford to pay and whether you are entitled to any concessions that may help reduce the costs immediately. This information helps us to determine what assistance may be best suited in your circumstances.
- Step 2: Payment plans – in this step we will work with you to develop an affordable payment plan. Our payment plans come in two categories, short and long term payment plans. This process is the same regardless of the category of payment plan.
- Step 3: Monitoring and energy efficiency advice – we will monitor payments and usage to gauge whether they are likely to get you back on track with your energy payments. We will contact you if we feel that we need to reassess or if there are other forms of assistance available that will help.
For those customers who can pay for their ongoing energy usage, but perhaps need assistance paying off their debt, we can work together to design a payment arrangement
.We can give our customers information about their pattern of energy use, what this is likely to cost in the future, and how this cost may be lowered. We will provide advice on government or non-government assistance that may be available and will suggest suitable repayment options based on our customer’s situation for them to consider.
4.2 What we will do
We will consider your individual situation to find the right programs (e.g. concession programs) or services that meet your needs.
Our Hardship Team will provide our customers with timely information and advice about any assistance they may be eligible for and support them through the application process including any paperwork.
If any customer is deemed ineligible for the hardship policy. Electricity in a Box will provide the reason for the ineligibility to the customer.
4.3 Following are the grant and rebates programs you can access: QLD Customers
- Electricity Concession
- Reticulated Natural Gas
- Electricity Life Support Concession Scheme
- Medical Cooling and Heating Electricity Concession
- Home Energy Assistance Scheme (HEAS)
For more information visit - www.qld.gov.au/community/cost-of-living-support/concessions/energyconcessions
- NSW Low Income Household Rebate
- Life Support Rebates
- Medical Energy Rebate
- Energy Accounts Payment Assistance (EAPA)
For more information visit - www.resourcesandenergy.nsw.gov.au/energyconsumers/financialassistance/rebates
- Annual Electricity Concession
- Heating allowance
- Life support concession
- Medical cooling and heating concession
For more information visithttp://www.concessions.tas.gov.au/concessions/electricity_and_heating
- Cost of living concession
- Medical heating and cooling concession
For more information visit– https://www.sa.gov.au/topics/care-and-support/financial-support/concessions You can contact the following financial counselling services for further assistance
New South Wales
- Money Smart – 1800 007 007
- Catholic Care Sydney – 13 18 19
- Wesley Financial Counselling – 1300 827 638
- Central Queensland Financial Counselling Service - +61 7 49 281 844
- Uniting Care Community – +61 7 3253 4000
- St Vincent de Paul – +61 7 3010 1096
- Anglicare TAS – 1800 243 232
- Rural Financial Counselling Service Tasmania - +61 3 6334 2768
- The South Australian Financial Counsellors Association - 1800 007 007
- Medisec Financial Advisor - +61 8 8377 7795
4.1. Financial counselling services
Financial counsellors can support customers to better manage their finances and can represent the customer in discussions with Electricity in a Box. We can refer customers to accredited financial counselling agencies who offer their services at no cost to the customer.
Financial counsellors can contact the Hardship Team directly on behalf on their clients on 02 9113 0404 (Monday to Friday, 9.00am to 5.00pm AEST).
5. We want to check you have the right energy plan
5.1. What we will do
When you join our Hardship Program, we will talk to you about your energy use and whether you are on the right plan. As a hardship customer, you can access a range of programs and services to help you.
If we think there is a better energy plan for you, we will:
- explain why the plan is better
- ask if you’d like to transfer to the new plan for free.
We will only talk to you about energy plans we can offer
6. We can help you save energy
Using less energy can save you money
6.1. What we will do
When you join our Hardship Program, we can give you tips to use less energy. This can be different depending on the state or territory you live in.
We will also provide practical assistance to customers on how they can become more energy efficient and to understand how they are tracking towards lowering those costs.
6.2. Energy efficiency information
A key step in taking control of an energy account is by understanding energy use, energy costs and how to use energy more efficiently. To help, we monitor the energy usage patterns of our Hardship Assistance Program customers to ensure they are on the energy plan most likely to minimise their energy costs and provide assistance and information to help reduce those costs. Hardship Assistance Program customers can receive advice on how their energy usage and home appliances impact their energy bills. In some cases, this will be done through phone consultation or in-home energy efficiency visits, completed by our community partners at no cost to the customer.
6.3. Putting debt on hold
It can take time to put into action ways to reduce our customer’s energy usage. To manage this, Hardship Assistance Program customers who cannot pay for their ongoing energy usage can have the repayment of their debt put on hold for an initial period of six months. This gives us time to work with our customers to lower their energy costs and let them implement the recommended measures while also making payments towards their on-going energy usage. While unpaid usage amounts are added to our customer’s outstanding balance, we’ll be working with our customers to try and help reduce their usage costs.
7. We will work with you
If you have joined our Hardship Program, we will not:
- charge late payment fees
- require a security deposit
- make changes to your plan without your agreement. For example, we will not put you on a shortened collection cycle unless you agree first.
We want customers on our Hardship Assistance Program to feel supported. That’s why they aren’t charged paper bill fees, merchant fees or asked for security deposits
Also, customers on the Hardship Assistance Program will not lose any pay-on-time discounts if they miss the due date of their bill or Regular Payment Plan instalments.
8. Graduation from Hardship Assistance
The ultimate goal of our Hardship Assistance Program is to set our customers up so that they can independently and effectively manage their energy costs and get things back on track.
To assist a Hardship customer to graduate from the Hardship Assistance Program we will
- providing regular updates on progress towards reducing arrears, and
- engaging in regular dialogue with the customer to ensure the payment plan remains appropriate.
Once a customer is no longer in a position of hardship or financial difficulty, they will graduate from the program and return to our standard billing and collection terms.
9. Our commitment
Electricity in a Box is committed to make it easier for our customers to stay on track and in control of their energy bills.
In addition to our commitment above when dealing with a customer who is experiencing payment difficulties
Electricity in a Box will
- Treat our customers with respect and empathy
- Provide our customers with timely assistance and information
- Provide information to our customers on how to increase energy efficiency to manage energy usage and costs
- Facilitate ongoing training of our staff
- Maintain strong relationships with community stakeholders
- Handle each situation with respect and empathy
- Act fairly and reasonably having regard to our customers’ circumstances
- Offer our customers the most suitable energy plan
- Ensure our customers don't lose any pay-on-time discounts for late payments
- Work with our customers to develop a sustainable payment plan
- Review payment plans to make sure our customers are on track
- Make sure our customers have information on relevant concessions, government and nongovernment assistance/grants
- Let our customers know where they can get free independent financial counselling in their area
- Provide our customers with tips on energy efficiency and ways to reduce energy costs
- Ensure energy supply remains connected while we continue to work together
- Work with our customers to create a suitable payment plan
- Inform our customers of the agreed payment dates to ensure they pay on time and in full
- Consider all circumstances of the customer of which we are aware and, having regard to those
circumstances, act fairly and reasonably, and
- In a timely manner when it is relevant to do so, including being contacted by a customer, give a customer clear information about the assistance available to the customer under this hardship policy, and
- As soon as practicable, provide a customer who is entitled to receive assistance under this hardship policy with that assistance.
10. Family violence protocol
Whenever Electricity in a Box staff suspect that a customer may be affected by family violence, they will refer them to the Hardship Team to offer the support outlined in this document if needed. We understand that these circumstances are sensitive and complex, which is why our Hardship Team undertakes ongoing training in this area and handles information in accordance with the relevant privacy requirements.
We want to do everything we can to make this program work for our customers and we will do what we can to resolve their concerns. If a customer has a complaint about the Hardship Assistance Program, we will work with them to resolve the complaint.
Customers can lodge a complaint using any of the following methods
- Electricity in a Box:
Complaints Level 1, 9 Bronte Road
Bondi Junction 2022 NSW
Upon receipt of your complaint we will follow these steps
- We will acknowledge your complaint (immediately if made in person or within two working days if via email, phone message or post)
- We will attempt to resolve your complaint at first contact if possible
- If a resolution is not possible on first contact, we will outline the timeframe for resolving the complaint
- If we have to investigate your complaint, we will do so within 10 working days and advise you of the outcome by your preferred method of contact.
- If there are delays, we will contact you and advise of the delay, the reason for the delay, and will outline a new timetable for resolution.
If you are unsatisfied with how we have handled your complaint then you have the right to contact the Energy Ombudsman Scheme in your state, they may be able to assist with your complaint. However, Electricity in a Box would prefer that you contact us first
Energy & Water Ombudsman NSW
Energy and Water Ombudsman Queensland
Energy and Water Ombudsman SA
ACT Civil & Administrative Tribunal
Electricity in a Box is fully committed to respecting our customer’s privacy. We protect the personal information of our customers in accordance with the Privacy Act 1988 (Commonwealth) and the National Privacy Principles.
13. Review and training
Electricity in a Box regularly reviews and updates our customer hardship training. All staff (including the Hardship Team) receive access to refresher training when Electricity in a Box updates its hardship policy or hardship training materials.
14. Contact us
You can contact us through any of the following methods;
- Customer Relations Team
1300 933 039 (Monday to Friday 9:00am to 5:00pm AEST)
- 02 9113 0404 (Monday to Friday 9:00am to 5:00pm AEST)
- Electricity in a Box
Level 1, 9 Bronte Road
Bondi Junction, NSW 2022