Real Utilities operates a hardship program (Hardship Program) to support our customers through difficult times. The entry criteria, benefits and features of the Hardship Program are summarised in this document which can be found on the Real Utilities website at www.realutilities.com.au. Copies of this document will be provided at no cost to customers on request.
1. Why we have the Hardship Program
Our Hardship Program is designed to assist residential customers who have the intention, but not the capacity, to pay electricity bills. The Hardship Program is an alternative to the standard payment collection process and aims to support customers experiencing hardship to better manage their ongoing electricity usage and any electricity debt.
2. Commitments supporting the Hardship Program
Real Utilities will treat customers with respect, courtesy and empathy and without judgement. We will give customers experiencing hardship information and assistance in managing their electricity accounts to make disconnection for non-payment of electricity bills our last resort.
In return, customers participating in our Hardship Program must make all scheduled repayments in full and on time or contact Real Utilities about any change in their circumstances that means they are unable to do so.
3. Eligibility criteria
To enter and remain on our Hardship Program, customers must meet the following three criteria:
- Have a current residential customer account for electricity services
- Be experiencing short term or long term hardship
- Demonstrate a willingness to pay
We understand that our customers may experience either short or long periods of hardship for a range of reasons. If customers are experiencing any difficulties paying their electricity bills, they (or their financial counsellors) should call Real Utilities to discuss their eligibility for the Hardship Program.
Our customer service team is trained to assist customers throughout this process in a supportive and non-judgemental manner. Real Utilities will respect the confidentiality of our customers in accordance with the Privacy Act 1988 (Cth).
Customers will not be eligible for the Hardship Program if:
- they have had 2 flexible payment arrangements cancelled by us in the previous 12 months due to non-payment; or
- they have been convicted of an offence involving illegal use of energy in the last 2 years.
4. Benefits and features of the Hardship Program
Depending on a customer’s needs, the benefits of our Hardship Program can include:
- Flexible payment arrangements including payment extensions, medium-term payment plans and longer-term payment plans taking into account a customer’s current electricity debt and electricity consumption needs for the next 12 months (or the duration of their tenancy or residency if this is less than 12 months), as well as his/her capacity to pay;
- Information about energy efficiency;
- Information about , and in some circumstances assistance in applying for, government and non-government concessions, rebates and assistance under a relief scheme;
- Referral information for financial counselling services; and
- Guaranteed non-disconnection of customer accounts for non-payment of electricity bills for customers actively engaging with the Hardship Program.
5. Contact us and further information
If customers have questions or would like to participate in the Hardship Program, they should contact our helpful and friendly customer service team on 1300 16 16 68. The customer service team is available between the hours of 8:30 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. (Sydney time), Monday to Friday.