Energy customers affected by family violence will soon be better protected following an announcement by the Australian Energy Market Commission (AEMC). From 1 May 2023, energy retailers will be required to have family violence policies that set out how they will support and protect customers experiencing family violence.
Family violence perpetrators can exploit energy services to control victim-survivors, undermine their financial security and continue to inflict psychological and physical harm. Under new rules announced by the AEMC, energy retailers around the country must be proactive in helping to protect the victim-survivors among their customers.
Under the new rules, when dealing with customers affected by family violence retailers must:
- Have regard firstly to the safety of an affected customer in any dealing they have with them;
- Not disclose confidential information about an affected customer to another person (and must require their contractors and agents not to disclose this information) without the customer’s consent;
- Provide a secure process to identify affected customers and minimise the need for them to repeatedly disclose their experiences;
- Not require documentary evidence in order to offer protection;
- Ensure staff can identify, assist, and engage appropriately and effectively with customers affected by family violence;
- Adopt, publish, and comply with a comprehensive family violence policy; and
- Consider family violence as likely to cause payment difficulties and hardship, meaning affected customers may also qualify for other forms of assistance.
To feed into the AEMC’s consultation processes for developing these new measures, TasCOSS engaged with Tasmanian organisations providing services to victim-survivors of family and sexual violence. We joined with the Public Interest Advocacy Centre and other consumer advocacy groups to present submissions to the AEMC that highlighted the need to assist and protect vulnerable and at-risk customers.
TasCOSS welcomes this recognition for energy retailers to have a family violence policy in place and requirement to provide appropriate and targeted support for customers experiencing family violence.