Energy retailers will be required to recognise family violence as a form of financial difficulty and consider this before pursuing debt, with an updated retail code planned to protect the rights of affected customers.
The Essential Services Commission has released a draft of the proposed new Energy Retail Code code after the Royal Commission into Family Violence found that essential services could be used to coerce other people – by putting a service into a victim’s name without their knowledge or consent, or obtaining contact details of a joint account holder from a provider.
The proposed Code would require retailers to have a family violence policy and new standards of conduct to boost protections, with better training for staff and improved account security and debt management practices.
Feedback from energy retailers and family violence specialists during the Royal Commission agreed that the energy industry could create meaningful and long-term change with these new measures.
Family violence can have a significant financial toll on victim survivors, especially where the perpetrator has used access to money and debts to exert control. These changes will offer greater protection and awareness.
The updated code is set to take effect from 1 January 2020 and will reflect similar changes to the water service code made in 2018, to protect customers experiencing family violence.
Stakeholders can comment on the draft energy code at esc.vic.gov.au/electricity-and-gas, until 16 April.