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Energy giants told to keep helping Aussies

Australians struggling to pay winter power bills will be given a helping hand, with energy giants told to keep supporting customers through the coronavirus pandemic.

The Australian Energy Regulator has asked retailers to continue backing households and small businesses until at least the end of October.

The regulator’s chairwoman says customers in financial stress should be given a payment plan.

“Even if they can’t afford to pay anything right now,” Clare Savage said on Tuesday.

“And any customer who is in contact with their retailer 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. Contact your retailer and agree a payment plan that you feel you can afford.”

Ms Savage also warned customers a bill deferral isn’t a waiver, and the regulator doesn’t want to see people take on unnecessary debts.

“We understand for a whole range of reasons it can be more difficult for some customers to get in touch,” she said.

“Retailers should make it as easy as possible for people to get in touch and with proactive strategies to engage with their customers.”

Retailers have been asked to:

* Provide customers with information about supports such as concessions and rebates

* Offer payment plans with no due date if required

* Not disconnect anyone who has been in contact

* If someone has been disconnected, reconnect them immediately once they’ve made contact and waive any associated fees

* Not refer people to debt collection agencies.

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