When it commenced on 1 January 2019 the Payment Difficulty Framework (PDF) represented a major shift in the Victorian retail energy sector's response to payment difficulty.
Under the PDF, energy retailers have been required to take a much more proactive and tailored approach when assisting financially struggling customers.
Almost two years on, (and one pandemic later), it is time to assess how effective the PDF has been. The purpose of "Missing the Mark" is to explore this issue in anticipation of the Essential Services Commission (ESC) review of the PDF, scheduled for early 2021.
Through our investigation we found that while regulatory requirements around payment difficulty have undergone a step change, the culture of the retail energy sector has not. Despite disconnection rates having dropped dramatically, too many vulnerable customers are still missing out on PDF entitlements.
We need to ask why this is the case - and how we, as a sector, can do better.
As we reach the end of 2020 and head into a sustained economic recession, we are at a timely juncture to examine our approach to financial difficulty in the Victorian retail energy sector - in terms of both design, implementation and compliance.