This fact sheet is designed to help Tasmanians with some of the issues you may be facing when your property has been damaged by a natural disaster such as storm, flood or bushfire.
Gas, Electricity and Water
What if I am having trouble with my connection and supply?
If you are having trouble with your connection and supply, contact your retailer. Your retailer is the company that looks after connections, billing and customer service.
If you have moved because of the disaster, you need to contact your retailer to be connected at the new property. The connection should be made on a date you agree or within 10 business days.
If you are changing retailers, your new connection must be made within one to two business days.
What if I'm having trouble paying bills?
If you are having trouble paying your bills because of the disaster, e.g. you lost your job or are finding it hard to get by, tell your retailer.
Your retailer should be able to help you set up a payment plan and you might be able to get help under a 'hardship policy'. You cannot be discontinued from services in this situation.
The law says that each retailer must have a hardship policy that can:
- agree to fair and reasonable payment, e.g. instalment plans;
- stop disconnection or any debt collections activity;
- tell you about concessions and government assistance, e.g. grants, and how to get these.
For more information on how to avoid disconnection when you are having trouble paying your bills, contact the Energy Ombudsman Tasmania on 1800 001 170 or visit www.energyombudsman.tas.gov.au.
You should also consider seeing a free financial counsellor, who can help you work out a budget to manage your bill payments.
To find a financial counsellor, contact Financial Counselling Australia 1800 007 007 or visit www.financialcounsellingaustralia.org.au.
Who pays for damage due to a power failure?
If you have experienced damage due to a power surge or from power failure, e.g. damage to appliances or food, you should lodge a claim with your electricity retailer.
What if my utilities problem has not been sorted out?
If you have tried to sort out a problem with your gas, electricity or water provider and it has not been resolved, contact the Energy Ombudsman Tasmania on 1800 001 170 within 12 months of when the problem first happened.
This is an independent, free service that can legally force the supplier to deal with your complaint. The ombudsman contacts the provider and will ask them to try again to resolve your problem.
If you have tried to sort out the problem with your provider more than once, the Energy Ombudsman can investigate your matter. This means they will look at your situation, consider the law and try to help you reach an agreement with your utility provider.
Telephone and Internet
What if I am having trouble with my connection and service?
If you are having trouble with your connection and service, contact your telephone service provider about your damaged telephone line.
However, if you have more than one telephone socket in your home, you will need to contact a registered cabler to fix any other telephone sockets. The telephone service provider is only responsible for repairing the first socket.
If your broadband service has been affected you should contact your service provider to see what they are doing about repairing or restoring the service.
If your broadband service was supplied under the federal government's Australian Broadband Guarantee (or one of the previous funding programs such as Broadband connect or the Higher Bandwidth Incentive Scheme) and you are having trouble contacting your provider, contact the Australian Broadband Guarantee consumer support helpline on 1800 883 488.
If you did not have a broadband service and want to find out if you can get an Australian Broadband Guarantee service, contact the helpline. The 'guarantee service' means that if you live out of the city, you can still get a reliable broadband service at a similar price to what you would pay in the city.
What if I am having trouble paying my bills?
If you are having trouble paying your bills, contact your provider and tell them you live in a disaster affected area and are having problems paying your bill. They may have special arrangements in place to help affected people.
See if your provider can place a hold on your bill while you work out a way to pay off your debt. You may also want to see if you can pay your bill over a longer period.
If you do not contact your provider, your service may be disconnected or your credit record may be affected. However, your provider must not take debt collection action against you while you are discussing a payment arrangement or paying your bill in instalments.
If you disagree about a bill amount, ask the provider to investigate your bill and try to sort it out with them. You should also consider seeing a free financial counsellor, who can help you to work out a budget to manage your bill payments. To find a financial counsellor, contact Financial Counselling Australia 1800 007 007 or visit www.financialcounsellingaustralia.org.au.
What if my telephone or internet problem has not been sorted out?
If you have tried to sort out a problem with your telephone or internet service provider and it has not been resolved, contact the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman ("TIO") on 1800 062 058 within 12 months of when the problem first happened.
This is an independent, free service to help sort out disagreements between customers and utility providers. The TIO will contact your provider and ask them to try and resolve the problem. Your provider has 10 days to do this. If the problem is not resolved within 10 days, you need to contact the TIO again.
The TIO may then investigate the situation, work out the issues and try to help reach an agreement with your provider.
The law says telephone and internet providers must obey the decisions made by the TIO. For more information about the TIO and the laws that apply, visit www.tio.com.au.
Other Financial Help
Can I get a discount on my utilities bill?
If you have a government concession card, you can get a discount on your utilities bill. To receive a discount, contact your utilities provider and give them your concession card details.
For more information contact:
Energy Ombudsman Tasmania
Phone: 1800 001 170
Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman
Phone: 1800 062 058
Financial Counselling Australia
Phone: 1800 007 007
This factsheet has been adapted from the Queensland Government publication 'Has your electricity, gas, or water supply, or your telephone or internet service been affected by the floods?'