Australians at risk of electricity disconnection

The worry and risk of electricity disconnections is a very real one for some electricity consumers, with new research showing that no one is immune from such a distressing circumstance.

The Public Interest Advocacy Centre (PIAC) has revealed that paid workers are just as likely as the unemployed and pensioners to be disconnected from their electricity, gas, or water.

For energy consumers worried about this phenomenon, consider consulting an electricity comparison service in order to get the lowest priced electricity possible for you.

A hefty 44 per cent of households disconnected by their electricity suppliers in NSW during 2012 reported their primary source of income as paid employment.

"In 2012, there was a significant increase in respondents who reported that their gas, water or electricity bill was unusually high," said PIAC senior policy officer, Carolyn Hodge.

"Although most respondents owed between $300 and $1,000 prior to disconnection, almost one in four households owed more than $1,000 when they were disconnected. These debt levels are significantly higher than they were four years ago," Ms Hodge said.

Of substantial concern was the high number of disconnected households including a person with a health condition, some of whom rely on important electrical equipment.

Many of those in the PIAC's research reported that they were unable to pay their bills due to medical expenses, and that embarrassment was one of the most significant factors in seeking help to pay their expenses.

The PIAC has made a number of recommendations following the report, such as suggesting that retailers should train staff on developing affordable payment plans for struggling customers, offer consistent support and remove late payment fees and reconnection fees for disconnected customers.

The PIAC also recommended that the NSW government create and deliver an information campaign informing households about assistance programs available, such as energy and water vouchers and the Payment Assistance Scheme. 45 per cent of those surveyed by PIAC did not know such support schemes existed.

It was also suggested that the NSW government should increase funding for emergency assistance programs such as the Energy Accounts Payment Assistance Scheme (EAPA) to keep up with increasing disconnection and reconnection fees.

Retailers should also seek to have more contact with their customers to find solutions earlier and before disconnection.

Remember, if you're feeling the pinch of increasing energy costs, use an electricity comparison service to find the best prices available.

Posted by Charlie Moore