The Essential Services Commission proposes to amend the Energy Retail Code (the code) to strengthen protections for residential and small business customers affected by family violence.
We propose to make these changes as part of our implementation of recommendation 109 of the Victorian Royal Commission into Family Violence. This recommendation requires us to amend our water and energy codes to ensure support for utility customers facing family violence.
What our code changes aim to do
Our proposed code changes provide customers affected by family violence with an entitlement to safe, supportive and flexible assistance from their energy retailer in managing their personal and financial security. In particular, we propose code changes that require energy retailers to have a family violence policy and meet minimum standards of conduct relating to:
- account security
- customer service
- debt management
- external support services
These minimum standards have been developed following six months of consultation with energy retailers, family violence specialists and the community sector. Importantly, these minimum standards have been informed by victim-survivors, who generously shared their stories and experiences and showed us the critical role energy retailers can play in helping customers stay safe.
This proposed code amendment will form part of our family violence framework and our ongoing commitment to work with the water and energy sectors to support collaboration on better practice approaches to family violence responses. When these code changes take effect We propose for the code amendment to take affect from 1 January 2020. We consider this starting date provides a reasonable time for energy retailers to establish compliant systems and processes, including training relevant staff. We encourage energy retailers not to wait to begin implementation but to establish their family violence programs sooner.