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GEE Hardship Policy

1. Translation services

For TTY assistance, please use one of the following 24-hour relay call numbers:

  • TTY/voice calls: 13 36 77
  • Speak & Listen: 1300 555 727
  • SMS relay: 0423 677 767

TIS

If you do not speak English and need help with this document, call the Translating and Interpreting Service (TIS) on 13 14 50 for assistance by an interpreter.

2. Difficulty reading

If you have difficulty reading for any reason, please contact our customer care team and we can arrange any of the following for you:

  • Sending you an ‘Easy English’ version of this policy
  • The option to receive bills in a large easy to read format
  • Work with you to provide this policy in a format that is accessible to you.

3. Introduction

This policy applies to all residential customers who find it hard to pay their energy bills due to hardship.

You might experience hardship because of factors like:

  • death in the family
  • household illness
  • family violence
  • unemployment
  • reduced income.

This policy explains:

  • what we will do to help you manage your energy bills
  • how we consider your circumstances and needs
  • your rights as a customer in our hardship program.

You can ask a support person to contact us, such as:

  • a financial counsellor
  • someone who helps you manage your energy bills.

We need your permission to talk to your support person.

If you have elected a representative (authorised third party) to act on your behalf, then we will engage with that representative the same as we would with you and will engage with that representative in a way that is consistent with your consent and instruction.  You can provide consent for a representative to act on your behalf and instructions by contacting our customer service team using the contact details set out in this policy.

As an energy retailer GEE Energy has an overarching responsibility to assist a customer who is experiencing hardship for any reason. When dealing with such a customer we will:

  • take into account all of your circumstances of which we are aware of, and having regard to those circumstances, act fairly and reasonably
  • in a timely manner when it is relevant to do so, including on being contacted by a customer, give a customer clear information about the assistance available to the customer under this hardship policy
  • as soon as practicable, provide a customer who is entitled to receive assistance under this hardship policy with that assistance.

GEE Energy has systems in place to enable it to meet its obligations with respect to customer hardship in:

  • the Retail Law, and
  • the Retail Rules, and
  • the AER Customer Hardship Policy Guideline, and
  • this customer hardship policy.

This policy can be found:

  • online (in a printable format) at https://gee.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/GEE-Energy-Hardship-Policy-Final.pdf and in your welcome pack that you received when first signing up with GEE Energy
  • in a reference included on your bill and
  • through calling our customer care team on 1300 70 70 42 where they can arrange to post you a free copy of this hardship policy. This number is included on all correspondence with you.

4. What we will do to help you

We will tell you about our hardship program if:

  • you tell us you are having trouble paying your bill
  • you are referred to our program by a financial counsellor or other community worker
  • we are concerned that you may be experiencing financial hardship.

We will recommend you speak to a staff member to help you join our hardship program if you have:

  • a history of late payments
  • broken payment plans
  • requested payment extensions
  • received a disconnection warning notice
  • been disconnected for non-payment.

We can also support you to join our hardship program if you tell us:

  • you are eligible for a relief grant or other emergency assistance
  • you have personal circumstances where hardship support may help. For example, death in the family or job loss.

You may have trouble paying your bills for different reasons. Please contact us so we can discuss your individual situation.

Our staff are specially trained to help you with hardship. Staff will:

  • ask you a few questions about your circumstances
  • work out if you can join the hardship program.

We will assess your application for hardship assistance by two business days. We will let you know if you are accepted into our hardship program within two business days from receipt of the application.

If you are accepted into our hardship program, we will:

  • tell you if you are on the right energy plan or if there is a better plan for you
  • tell you about government concessions, relief schemes or energy rebates you may be able to receive
  • give you ideas about how to reduce your energy use
  • talk to you about a payment amount that suits your circumstances.

We can send you a free copy of our hardship policy.

GEE Energy regularly reviews and updates its customer hardship training to ensure that our staff can provide you with the best possible help. All staff are made aware of this policy as part of normal induction training. However, a dedicated team of staff have been specifically trained to handle enquiries and manage our hardship program. These staff have been trained to understand hardship issues to

  1. answer customer queries about our customer hardship policy and hardship program,
  2. identify customers experiencing payment difficulties due to hardship and
  • assist customers experiencing payment difficulties due to hardship

Hardship staff can be contacted by the details found at the end of this policy.

We will send you a free copy of our hardship policy in accordance with your preferred method of written communication. If you do not elect a preferred method, then the Hardship Policy will be sent to you via the post. The Hardship Policy is included as part of your welcome pack. An additional copy will be sent to you when you are considering entering the Hardship Program.

5. Payment Options

What we will do

There are different payment options available to hardship customers, including:

  • payment plans
  • Centrepay

When you are in our hardship program, we will offer you flexible payment options to suit your individual situation.

To make your payment plan, we will consider:

  • how much you can pay
  • how much you owe
  • how much energy we expect you will use in the next 12 months.

This will help us figure out a payment plan that is right for you.

We will offer a payment plan to suit your situation. This will include payments to cover:

  • what you owe
  • an amount to cover your energy use.

Once we agree to a payment plan, we will send you information including:

  • who you can contact for more help
  • how long the payment plan will go for
  • the amount you will pay each time
  • how many payments you need to make
  • when you need to make your payments (this is also called the frequency of the payments)
  • how we worked out your payments.

You can choose to use Centrepay, if you are eligible.

Centrepay is a free service you can use to help pay your bills. Centrepay can automatically take an amount of money from your Centrelink payments to go toward energy bills and expenses.

We will see if another energy plan may be better for you. If you agree, we can transfer you to a better energy plan for free.

Depending on the rules in our hardship policy, we may be able to remove some debt, fees or charges you owe.

If you miss a payment, we will contact you to see if you need help. We will contact you by SMS, phone and/or letter on at least two occasions in order to allow you to respond. These contacts will be

  • two days after the payment due date
  • Seven days after first contact attempt

What you must do

Tell us if your situation changes and you can no longer make the payments in your plan. We can then review your payment arrangements.

Tell us if your contact details change.

We may stop helping you if you:

  • stop making payments under your plan
  • do not tell us when your contact details change.

If you have had two payment plans cancelled in the last 12 months because you did not follow your plan:

  • we do not have to offer you another plan
  • we might disconnect your energy.

6. Other support to help you pay your energy bill

Depending on the state or territory you live in, there are other support to help you pay your energy bills.

What we will do

We will tell you about other ways you can get help to pay your energy bill, such as:

  • government relief schemes
  • energy rebates
  • concession programs
  • financial counselling services.

What we need you to do

If you find out you are eligible for these programs, let us know as soon as possible so we can help you.

7. Our programs and services

As a hardship customer, you can access a range of programs and services to help you:

  • advice or referrals to other support agencies who can provide a range of additional family services to help support household costs including possible faulty appliance replacements (No Interest Loan programs (NILS))
  • fair and reasonable payment plans at fair and reasonable instalment intervals; and
  • where high consumption is evident, advice on energy saving tips and how to obtain energy audits.

What we will do:

We will consider your individual situation to find the right programs (e.g., concession programs) or services that meet your needs

Early response to hardship indicators.

Our customer hardship team specialists are trained to identify customers who are vulnerable or may

be about to experience hardship. This will be carried out whenever a customer:

  • makes contact for payment arrangements
  • makes a direct request for assistance, or
  • responds to our contact regarding a late or missed payment.

Additionally, staff will review your payment history including late payments, requests for payment extensions, broken payment plans or if customers are receiving government grants and/or concessions.

All bills, reminder notices and disconnection or restriction warnings contain information advising customers to let us know if they are experiencing difficulties and that options are available to assist them with payments.

This includes clear information about key dates and any next steps, such as dates by which you need to make a payment or contact us.

Remember, it is critical that you keep us informed if your circumstances change, or you think you might have difficulties making your agreed payments.

Steps when entering our hardship program

When you enter the hardship program you can expect to go through the following steps, which are designed to help you navigate the program and get back on track with your energy costs.

  • Assessment – first we will assess whether you are eligible for assistance under the hardship program.
  • Assistance – In this step we will ask you questions regarding what you can afford to pay and whether you are entitled to any concessions that may help reduce the costs immediately. This information helps us to determine what assistance may be best suited in your circumstances. We will also provide you with a range of information upfront including what we expect of you and what you can expect of us and when you can expect to receive information.
  • Payment plans – in this step we will work with you to develop an affordable payment plan.
  • Monitoring – we will monitor payments and usage to gauge whether they are likely to get you back on track with your energy payments. We will contact you if we feel that we need to reassess or if there are other forms of assistance available that will help.
  • Energy efficiency advice and energy audits – throughout the process we will try to understand your energy usage and consider different ways in which we may help you reduce your energy costs. Please note that this is an option to assist you and that entry into the Hardship program is not dependent on you agreeing to have an energy audit.

As part of our approach to Hardship we will continue to work with our customers and monitor energy consumption during their participation in a Hardship program. Our dedicated support staff we review each customer enrolled in a Hardship program every three months to ensure that:

  • the customer is able to meet its obligations under the Hardship program
  • the Hardship program is meeting the needs and expectations of the customer
  • the tariff applied is appropriate for the circumstances
  • any changes to the customers circumstances

Eligibility

You will be eligibility for entry into our Customer Hardship Program, if:

  • You are a residential customers of GEE Energy; and
  • You find it hard to pay your energy bills due to hardship

Our process for assessing the eligibility of a customer who seeks entry into (or re-entry) into our Customer Hardship Program is briefly described as follows. Our customer hardship team specialist will, on a case-by-case basis and having regard to your individual circumstances:

  • establish open communication with you
  • discuss your individual circumstances and needs and whether any indicators of possible hardship, including but not limited to the following, are present:
    • customers who let us know they are in financial hardship and are unable to pay their bill by the due date
    • customers advising of recent events that place them in a vulnerable financial position such as job loss, illness, death in the family, family violence, or a sudden change in living circumstances
    • customers receiving assistance from a Financial Counsellor or other advocates
    • customers with limited or no English skills
    • low literacy or numeracy
    • customers that have a history of late payments or failed payment plans
    • temporary loss of income or variable income
    • history of broken payment plans
    • an unexpected essential cost of living expense
    • receiving several bills at once
    • a high bill.
  • assess whether you are a residential customer of GEE Energy

If you do not meet the above criteria you may be ineligible for assistance under this policy. If we consider you ineligible for assistance under this policy we will inform you at the time of this and tell you why you are ineligible, including any options or other forms of assistance that may be available to you. We may provide other options for you at our discretion.

8. We want to check you have the right energy plan

What we will do

When you join our hardship program, we will talk to you about your energy use and whether you are on the right plan.

If we think there is a better energy plan for you, we will:

  • explain why the plan is better
  • ask if you would like to transfer to the new plan for free.

We will only talk to you about energy plans we can offer.

9. We can help you save energy

Using less energy can save you money.

What we will do

When you join our hardship program, we can give you tips to use less energy. This can be different depending on the state or territory you live in.

10. We will work with you

If you have joined our hardship program, we will not:

  • charge late payment fees
  • require a security deposit
  • make changes to your plan without your agreement. For example, we will not put you on a shortened collection cycle unless you agree first

11.  Feedback and complaints

GEE Energy always takes feedback and complaints seriously. If you wish to submit feedback or lodge a complaint this can be done by using the contact details at the end of this policy.

Upon receipt of your complaint, we will follow these steps:

  1. We will acknowledge your complaint (immediately if made in person or within two working days if via email, phone message or post
  2. We will attempt to resolve your complaint at first contact if possible
  3. If a resolution is not possible on first contact, we will outline the timeframe for resolving the complaint
  4. If we have to investigate your complaint, we will do so within 10 working days and advise you of the outcome.
  5. If there are delays, we will contact you and advise of the delay, the reason for the delay, and will outline a new timetable for resolution.

For full information on GEE Energy’s complaint handling process visit

https://gee.com.au/payment-difficulty/

If you are unsatisfied with how we have handled your complaint then you have the right to contact the Energy Ombudsman Scheme in your state, they may be able to assist with your complaint. However, GEE Energy would prefer that you contact us first.

Energy & Water Ombudsman New South Wales

  • Freecall: 1800 246 545
  • Interpreter: 131 450
  • NRS: 133 677
  • In writing to Reply Paid 86550, Sydney South NSW 1234

Energy & Water Ombudsman Victoria

  • Freecall: 1800 500 509
  • Interpreter: 131 450
  • NRS: 133 677
  • Email: ewovinfo@ewov.com.au
  • In writing to Reply Paid 469, Melbourne VIC 8060

Hardship Customer Care Contact Details

Phone 1300 70 70 42
Email service@gee.com.au
Online www.gee.com.au
Postal GEE Energy, PO Box 3122, Newstead QLD 4006
Contact Hours 8.30am – 5pm Mon-Fri EST

 

This policy has been based on the AER Customer Hardship Policy Guideline Version 1 March 2019.

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