7 June 2020
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Businesses doing their bit: The energy sector’s response to coronavirus

AAP Image/Dan Peled

Businesses doing their bit: The energy sector’s response to coronavirus

Sophia Katsinas
7 April 2020

Last week, Origin Energy, one of Australia’s leading energy providers, announced that they would be making a number of exceptions to assist struggling individuals or businesses who were in financial stress due to COVID-19 shutdowns, until July 2020.

Origin’s CEO, Frank Calabria, also announced he holds the same expectations for larger corporations who have the capacity to make exceptions for people doing it tough at the moment.

“We encourage collaboration across the energy supply chain including between retailers, networks, the market operator and regulators, plus federal and state governments, to make sure that together we share the burden of what are likely to be significant and lasting impacts from COVID-19 on large numbers of customers,” he said.

Origin announced they would introduce:

  • No disconnections for any residential and small business customers in financial stress until at least 31 July 2020
  • No default listing for any customer who is having trouble paying
  • Pause to all late payment fees effective immediately

“Increasing numbers of Australians are going to be worrying about how they will pay their bills on time, and we want to reassure people that if they are with Origin and they have been impacted by COVID-19, we will support them and keep the lights on,” said Mr Calabria.

The governments Australian Energy Regulator (AER) released a set of expectations of energy businesses that would protect consumers and the energy market during COVID-19. They outlined “10 new expectations of energy businesses”, which pushed further exceptions for residential or small business customers that may be struggling to make repayments during the COVID-19 era.

The key points the energy sector is professing is that energy “is an essential service”, and those who can pay their bills should keep doing so to ensure the ongoing viability of the energy business. However, for those who cannot, retailers must be mindful and lenient. It is important that customers who are in financial hardship contact their provider and inform them, in which case they will be supported by the AER if they are approved as undergoing financial hardship.

The AER noted, “we recognise that our expectations in this statement may add to the risks and costs facing energy businesses. We are particularly concerned about the continued viability of energy businesses and we are proactively working with all stakeholders on options to appropriately balance these risks and costs across the sector and to ensure energy businesses get the assistance they may need in the coming months.”

Despite the volatility in oil prices, and a potential oil war between Saudi Arabia and Russia that seems to be slipping under the radar during this COVID-19 era, energy sectors are abiding by the AER’s instructions to comply with leniency measures for customers.

Ultimately, if you’ve contacted your energy sector and informed them of your financial hardship, the AER will have your back to ensure your lights stay on - even if you can’t pay your bills.

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