As summer rolls around the corner, families should be aware that the Australian Energy Regulator’s (AER) Customer Hardship Policy Guideline requires energy retailers to ensure hardship programs for those struggling to pay electricity bills are easily accessible. When placing a customer on the hardship program an energy retailer cannot make it a condition to see a financial counsellor or make payments up front. Retailers must: see if there is a better energy plan for the customer; give tips to save energy and money ; see if there are other ways to help – depending on the retailer this may include a home energy visit; talk about the right payment amount to suit the customer’s circumstances; let the customer know about government concessions, energy rebates and financial counselling services; and advise about the Home Energy Emergency Assistance Scheme (HEEAS) if the customer’s income reduces and/or they have emergency once-off expenses such as moving home, medical, car or other essential item repairs. Customers on hardship programs cannot be disconnected for non-payment if they are meeting the conditions of the hardship program. Find out more.