Posted on 11. Dec, 2012 in News
The Baillieu Government must explain the increase in disconnection of vulnerable Victorian families from their utility supply and urgently review the disconnection practices of energy retailers, Shadow Minister for Energy, Lily D’Ambrosio said today.
Ms D’Ambrosio said that Victorian Labor was concerned after the Essential Services Commission (ESC) this week released a report indicating that alarming levels of Victorians were being disconnected from gas and electricity supply.
Figures released by the ESC show that disconnections of electricity customers increased by 33 per cent over the last year, while disconnections of gas customers increased by over 50 per cent.
“This report raises serious questions about whether retailers are unfairly disconnecting vulnerable Victorians struggling with the cost of living”, said Ms D’Ambrosio.
According to the ESC report the number of customers in a hardship program arrangement with their energy retailer has decreased from 24,122 to 18,879 over the past two years.
The Essential Service Commission report states:
“The increase in disconnections for both gas and electricity may indicate retailers are increasingly turning to disconnection to resolve payment issues… It is possible retailers are not proactively identifying and offering enough support to customers who are experiencing hardship and who may need to be in a hardship program or a payment plan.”
Ms D’Ambrosio said that the reduction of customers on hardship program arrangements was of great concern to Victorians struggling with high energy and gas bills.
“The State Government should be encouraging energy retailers to manage customer’s financial difficulties through hardship programs and payment plans as a first step before disconnection,” Ms D’Ambrosio said.
“Today Minister for Energy Michael O’Brien has completely washed his hands of the issue stating that it was purely a matter between retailers and customers.
“It is the responsibility of Minister O’Brien and his government to ensure that Victorian households are offered payment plans before having their power and gas shut off.
“Electricity disconnections in Victoria have reached a level not seen since the previous Liberal Kennett Government, soaring to their highest point since 1996-97.
“Ted Baillieu came into Government promising to reduce cost pressures on Victorian families and must be held accountable for his promise.”