It’s an unusual time for all of us. We know many of our customers are faced with an uncertain future as a result of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, which in many cases comes with increased financial stress.
It’s understandable that many of our customers have questions about what options are available to them. That’s why we’ve sent emails to over one million AGL residential and small/medium business (SME) customers, as well as our PowerDirect customers, outlining the various programs available and how to get in touch with us.
We’ve now enabled almost 500 of our customer service agents in Melbourne, Adelaide, and offshore (around 60% of our Contact Centre) to be able to work from home, to ensure customers can keep in contact with us. This is a big step forward for our customers; a couple of weeks ago we didn’t have any our Contact Centre agents set up to work remotely.
While none of us know how long this situation will run for, we’re set-up for the long-haul, if necessary, and we’ll continue to keep our customers at the centre of all our decisions.
COVID-19 Support Program
We take our role as an essential service provider – and Australia’s largest electricity generator – seriously. We have plans in place to manage potential issues across our power stations; but we also have plans in place to take care of our customers.
The cornerstone of our COVID-19 response is the COVID-19 Customer Support Program (CSP), announced by our CEO and MD Brett Redman in March.
The COVID-19 CSP provides fast-tracked access to a program that defers payments and suspends disconnections until 31 July for residential and SME customers who may be under financial stress as a result of the pandemic.
This provides direct relief for residential and SME customers who are in financial distress and aren’t able to pay their bill because they have lost their job or their business, or their health has been impacted.
Building on existing support programs
The COVID-19 CSP is in addition to our well-established hardship programs most recently used to provide relief during the summer bushfires. These programs are already supporting our customers, and will continue to do so, both in the long and short term.
- Payment options and plans
We have a range of options to help our customers make payments more easily including:
- Bill Smoothing – spreading estimated yearly energy costs over smaller, regular instalments.
- Pay my way – helping customers manage their payments through weekly, fortnightly or monthly instalments to pay the amount before the due date.
- Centrepay – a voluntary payment option available to Centrelink customers to make regular deductions from their Centrelink payments.
- Financial Hardship programs
We offer confidential financial assistance programs that go beyond the standard payment plans.
- Staying Connected – available for residential customers based in New South Wales, South Australia, Queensland and Western Australia who are experiencing temporary or long-term financial difficulties and includes:
- Tailored payment plans matched their current financial situation
- Information about payment options and concessions that may be available
- Access to free and independent financial counselling or support services and advice on energy efficiency
- Payment Support Victoria – available to eligible Victorian customers who are experiencing temporary or long-term financial difficulty that makes it hard to pay their gas and/or electricity bills. The program is designed to help customers get back on track with their home energy bill, repay overdue bills and lower ongoing usage costs.
- Any customers actively participating in our Financial Hardship programs will not be disconnected. In addition, we have currently stopped all pending disconnections for non payment.
- Here to Help – we’ve developed a tool to help customers take advantage of any assistance they might be eligible for. By answering a few simple questions, we can tailor a personalised action plan which explains any eligible concessions or grants, financial assistance options we can offer directly, as well as the steps customers need to take to apply for them.
As well as these programs and services, we also have a range of tools and resources to help customers manage their energy usage:
- My Account – securely view and track energy usage and billing.
- AGL Energy App – manage energy on the go, including detailed information about your energy usage and easy payment options.
- Energy Insights – smart meter electricity customers automatically receive an Energy Insights report. The report breaks down electricity usage to estimate how much electricity a customer’s home uses on heating, cooling, lighting, laundry, standby and more. It helps customers to take control of their electricity costs and identify savings.
- Energy Saving Tips – we have developed a home energy efficiency guide for ways to help make a real difference to people’s energy bills, with an Easy English version also available.
Recently we developed a helpful guide for customers on the tools and support available for them. The AGL Assist Toolkit provides comprehensive information on the above programs and resources, as well as a range of other services available to help our customers.
We also have a number of programs in place to support our small business customers. This includes access to extended payment terms and a range of payment management products – such as bill smoothing, monthly billing and payment deferrals. We’ll continue to support small business suppliers with our commitment to pay small businesses within 14 days.
Our teams at Southern Phone are also ensuring customers are well supported, providing 24/7 unlimited data for all NBN and ADSL Broadband customers from 23 March until 30 June 2020 and providing extended payment terms for any customers experiencing financial difficulty.
This situation will run for some time. We know there isn’t going to be an easy fix, and we will continue to work with customers and community groups to ensure we’re supporting them in the best way as we move through these challenging times.