You may get behind on your utility bills because of the bushfires. There are steps you can take to make repayment arrangements and avoid disconnection.

Is your business still viable?

Can your business recover?

You may need to work out whether your business is still viable. You can do this by:

  • Talking to your accountant

  • Use the Australian Taxation Office’s business viability assessment tool

Can’t pay my electricity, gas and water bills

Step 1 Work out what you can afford to pay


If you’re struggling to make the required payment on your utility bills, the first thing to do is work out if you can actually afford to pay anything.

If you can afford to pay something

Start paying the amount you can afford and contact the service provider to make a repayment arrangement.

If you can’t afford to pay anything

You can negotiate a deferral. You can call us on 1800 413 828 if you want advice on how to ask for a deferral. You can also call us if you are unsure how you will manage even if you do get time to pay your utility bills.




Step 2 Contact your service provider


Call the service provider and let them know you have been affected by the bushfires and cannot afford to pay your business utility bills. Do not be afraid to make that phone call. The service provider will be aware of the bushfire crisis and should respond compassionately.

Unfortunately, small business owners in financial difficulty can have limited rights when it comes to their electricity, gas and water bills. However, it still makes sense to ask your service providers for help as they may have put in place special measures to help small businesses affected by bushfire.

Tips

  • Ask about any special assistance your service provider is offering as a result of the bushfires

  • Keep details of how and when you told the service provider you were in financial hardship

  • Specifically ask for an assurance that you will not be disconnected while you are in financial hardship




Step 3 Utility bills may be a priority


If you are still operating your business then paying the utility bills may be a high priority to ensure you have access to energy and water.

If your small business has been completely destroyed you may need to make hard decisions about whether to open again. If you are unsure what to do, call us for advice.




Step 4 If you make a repayment arrangement stick to it


If your lender agrees to the amount you have offered to pay the bill, do your best to keep paying that amount.

  • Pay the agreed amount on the required date
  • If you start finding it difficult to pay the agreed amount, contact the energy/water company again to talk about your situation. They may agree to a longer-term arrangement.




Step 5 If your service provider will not agree to an arrangement you can (usually) dispute it for free


There are free dispute resolution schemes for energy, gas and water in each State and Territory (except ACT and Tasmania for water).

NSW: Energy and Water Ombudsman NSW (EWON)

VIC: Energy and Water Ombudsman Victoria (EWOV)

SA: Energy and Water Ombudsman SA (EWOSA)

WA: Energy and Water Ombudsman WA (EWOWA)

NT: Ombudsman NT

ACT: There is no energy and water ombudsman in the ACT but if your service provider is a member, you can complain to EWON. The ACT Civil & Administrative Tribunal will also consider complaints about electricity, gas and water companies. This is not a free service but it is low cost.

TAS: Energy Ombudsman Tasmania (for energy disputes only. There is no complaints service for water)

QLD: Energy & Water Ombudsman QLD (EWOQ)

Lodging a complaint with a dispute resolution scheme will usually stop or delay disconnection. If you need advice at any stage in the dispute process call us.




Step 6 Speak to one of our financial counsellors


If your problem still hasn’t been solved, or you’re feeling overwhelmed, call us on

1800 413 828 to speak with one of our small business financial counsellors.





1800 413 828