How can we better protect electricity customers?

News story
The ‘Small Use Code’ that outlines minimum protections for Western Australian households and small business electricity customers is currently under review.
Have your say

The ‘Small Use Code’ or the ‘Code of Conduct for the Supply of Electricity to Small Use Customers 2018’ is reviewed by the Economic Regulation Authority every two years. This review is covering a lot of ground, including:

  • a comparison against similar codes in the eastern states;
  • proposed rewrites to modernise code content;
  • improved access to payment assistance; and
  • addition of family and domestic violence protections.

While working through each of these proposed changes might be a little overwhelming, sharing your views on a few critical questions will help shape consumer protections for small use electricity customers to help meet community expectations.

Have your say by emailing publicsubmissions@erawa.com.au and putting ‘Small Use Code Review’ in the subject line.

Possible questions for your consideration

Energy Policy WA has compiled a list of questions that might help you in making your submissions. What is important to you?

On your bill

Did you know that there are more than 30 different pieces of information in your electricity bill? Does this make reading your bill challenging?

Which parts of the bill are useful? What parts could be removed to make it clearer?

Paying electricity bills

Would making regular payments off your electricity account be useful for you? What about bill smoothing – making the same payments across the year even though usage may spike in summer?

To date, these payment options have been restricted to those experiencing payment difficulties. Would making them available to everyone be beneficial?

Advance payments

Have you ever paid an electricity bill in advance? Would a limit on the amount you pay in advance be an issue?

Disconnection

Should retailers be prevented from disconnecting customers who owe less than a certain amount? Is $300 an appropriate amount – remembering this would apply for both households and small businesses?

Family and domestic violence

The State Government has requested that the ERA consider adding Code protections for those affected by family and domestic violence.

Victoria has already introduced some of these protections, which include:

  • Requiring retailers to have a family and domestic violence policy and to provide staff training about these matters.
  • Protecting customer information - including for joint account holders.
  • Establishing safe communication methods.
  • Avoiding the customer repeating their story.
  • Considering the impact of debt collection or disconnection on each customer.

Do you support the inclusion of family and domestic violence protections in the Small Use Code? Is there anything else that should be included as minimum protections?

Setting payment plans

In setting instalment plans should retailers have to take account of a customer’s debt and expected electricity consumption needs over the next 12 months, or should it reflect a different period?

Changing instalment plans

Should a retailer be able to change an instalment plan and only provide notice? Or should they need to check with the customer before changes are made?

Providing information

‘Giving information’ to a customer can include making that information available on a website. Would having marketing information available on a website be enough to make sure that you are able to make decisions about your retailer?

Right to protection

Are there times when you should be able to contract out of protections? It could mean agreeing to different billing periods, or one bill being sent for multiple accounts, amongst other possibilities. When would you like to see flexibility offered?

In the detail

Some other changes are proposed on other matters, including:

  • Life support customers
  • The meaning of ‘written notice’
  • Marketing practices
  • Over and under charging
  • Prepayment meter payments and disconnections

For more information, including the 2019-2020 Draft Review Report, visit the Economic Regulation Authority webpage Code of Conduct for the Supply of Electricity to Small Use Customers Review 2019-22 - Economic Regulation Authority Western Australia

Page reviewed 4 February 2021