Customer Affordability

Context

Water corporations provide essential services, and it is critical to ensure these services are affordable for all Victorian households. The water industry works in partnership with Victorian Government agencies to support customers who are vulnerable or facing hardship. The economic hardship caused by recent events, such as drought, bushfires, and COVID-19 pandemic, means more Victorians need support to afford their water bills than ever before. This highlights the importance of effective policy and regulatory settings that ensure affordability of water services for vulnerable customers.

Although affordability is a priority for all water corporations, pricing structures and hardship support programs are not uniform across the state. Identifying affordability challenges and potential responses is made more difficult by the lack of a common definition or measure of affordability. Collaboration across the industry and with the Australian Government and Victorian Government to address these issues will generate a more effective approach to affordability, facilitating peer-to-peer learning in the industry and improving the experiences of customers across Victoria.

Objectives

  • All residential customers can access affordable essential water services

  • Affordability of water services can be consistently measured using established metrics and targets

Position Statement

  1. The design of all forms of customer support should reflect the important role they play for vulnerable customers in service affordability.
  2. A consistent approach to measuring affordability in the water industry and a more uniform approach to customer supports across the industry should be adopted to improve equity.
  3. Concessions and Utility Relief Grants should be processed in an efficient and timely way to support customers who are vulnerable or experiencing hardship.
  4. Concessions in water bills should be automated to provide faster, easier bill relief.
  5. The industry should develop self-serve hardship mechanisms to support customers requiring short-term bill relief.
  6. Mechanisms to reduce bill pressures for vulnerable customers should be considered, including social tariffs.

Key Stakeholders

  • Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS)

  • Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP)

  • Essential Services Commission (ESC)

Underpinning Principles

  • Serving our customers and communities (affordability, social responsibility)

  • Good governance (safety, health, and wellbeing)

  • Leadership and innovation (continuous improvement)

Accessibility

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