We all want affordable and reliable energy to power our lives – and we want it to be easy. But what happens when it’s no longer easy? What happens when the cost of living becomes a real concern? It’s critical that we provide the right support for people experiencing financial difficulty, so they can continue to turn on their lights and get back on track.
Written by Sophie Kostov
At Origin, we’re committed to providing Australian homes and businesses with energy that’s affordable, smart and easy, and continuing to prioritise help for vulnerable members of the community.
So, how are we doing that?
Our people and community partners
We have a dedicated team of people who talk to our customers every day – they’re trained to identify and understand hardship triggers and provide on-the-spot support and solutions.
Origin works closely with community groups across Australia, including Financial Counselling Australia, Kildonan UnitingCare and Uniting Communities to support and assist people most at risk of financial exclusion. Plus, we support regional community programs like ‘Bring Your Bills Day’, ‘Anti-Poverty Week’ and drought relief activities hosted by State Energy and Water Ombudsman offices.
We get out and meet our customers through a regular series of community events, including ‘Bring Your Bills Day’, where customers bring along their energy bills, letters from retailers, and any concession cards. We’re able to help people understand their energy bills, ensure they’re on the best plan for them, and provide energy saving tips. For customers facing financial difficulty, we’re able to apply eligible rebates to their accounts and discuss options to help manage their energy bills, including flexible payment, Centrepay, direct debit, financial counselling service referrals, and in some cases, we offer home energy audits and payment schemes.
The last 12 months in numbers
• From Bourke (NSW) to Logan (QLD), Origin has attended several community events across Australia, meeting and supporting hundreds of vulnerable customers with energy enquiries
• Origin’s Customer Advocacy team took almost 25,000 calls from financial counsellors supporting vulnerable customers
• Origin provided $15 million to customers experiencing financial difficulty through our Power On program.
Keeping the power on
‘Power On’ is Origin’s hardship program. Since 2003, we’ve been supporting vulnerable customers to achieve short-term relief and longer-term solutions so they can get on top of their energy bills and stay there.
We’ve also made sure that customers in our Power On program have not paid any energy price increases since 2016.
What kinds of customers has our Power On program helped?
“My employer had suddenly ceased trading, leaving me unemployed with no payout for leave, unpaid superannuation, etc. The house I was renting was sold to someone who planned to move in, so I was evicted mid-lease and had to move into a much more expensive rental property. The father of my children stopped paying any child support. I managed to get some part-time work but was still struggling to pay rent, feed my children, and pay my bills. I went hungry, but could just afford to pay the rent and feed my kids, but couldn’t afford anything else. I rang Origin in tears. I was transferred to your Hardship team and made contact with an angel. I can’t remember her name, but she was understanding, and caring, and made me a deal that gave me a glimmer of hope. I could make small payments, and when I was earning a decent wage again, if I agreed to pay a certain amount regularly, Origin would match those payments, effectively halving my debt. That was the light at the end of my dark tunnel.”
What our customers say
Stacey is not alone. Our Customer Advocacy team is here to help, and in the last seven months, we’ve achieved a strong NPS (Net Promoter Score) of +51, demonstrating our commitment to get it right for our most vulnerable customers.
Financial inclusion for all
In 2018, we joined the Financial Inclusion Action Plan (FIAP) program to make energy accessible and affordable for all Australians. Our FIAP outlines 15 actions we’re taking to assist the most vulnerable members of the community, and promote financial inclusion and resilience.
Being open and honest
We want all our customers to be more informed and engaged when it comes to energy. So we’ve made it easier to understand and compare our plans, offers and benefits to ensure customers are on the best deal possible.
We won’t stop there
The Energy & Water Ombudsman regularly holds Bring Your Bills Days with community organisations, government agencies, and retailers like Origin. They also hold monthly Energy Bill Support Days.
We’ll continue to work with State Energy and Water Ombudsman offices and other government and community agencies to support vulnerable customers to achieve financial independence and ongoing energy sustainability.
And we won’t stop there. There’s more to be done to ensure all Australians can access energy, and that the most vulnerable communities receive the support they need across all aspects of their lives.
Visit ewon.com.au/events for more information.
Not in the area?
Get in touch with us if you’re experiencing difficulty paying your energy bills.