This submission responds to the Australian Energy Regulator’s (AER) Sustainable Payment Plans Framework. The framework was developed as a response to the AER’s 2015 review of energy retailers’ customer hardship policies and practices. The aim of the framework is to guide retailers toward best practice when engaging with customers about payment plan options. This involves a principles-based approach in order to offer flexibility to individual circumstances, and a flow-chart guide to propose a way of implementation. PIAC sees that the framework could assist customers who are experiencing difficulty in paying a bill by offering flexible and supportive payment plan options.
PIAC believes there are four key areas to be included within the framework. These include effective communication strategies, flexibility in payment plans, stakeholder engagement, and transparency of support services. These key areas would require consistent application from those retailers who adopt the framework. In addition, PIAC believes that those retailers who take up the framework should reinforce collaboration, enabling the customer to be empowered throughout the process.
PIAC also recognises that for a customer who is experiencing financial difficulty, effective consumer engagement can significantly affect how the customer makes choices.