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Coronavirus assistance for your energy and Internet bills

Here's how to stay on top of your utility bills during the crisis.

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As the coronavirus pandemic continues to evolve, many Australians will find themselves facing financial difficulties now or in the weeks to come. Your utility bills are one of those things that may cause you more financial stress during this frantic period.

The good news is that most energy and Internet providers have some sort of financial hardship program in place in order to make this financial burden more manageable for you, with some having come out with more specific responses in relation to COVID-19.

Coronavirus assistance from your energy provider

Most energy providers have a financial hardship policy that includes payment extensions, payment plans if people are behind on their bills, automatic payment of bills via Centrelink income and financial counselling referrals. Retailers that provide programs like these include Red Energy and Simply Energy.

Here are some specific measures different companies have put in place as a result of the coronavirus.

Origin

Origin Energy say they've added some extra support while the coronavirus outbreak is ongoing:

  • Energy disconnections are temporarily suspended for customers who haven't paid their bills.
  • Vulnerable customers with life support needs or who need their supply reconnected are being prioritised.
  • Their financial hardship program is still operating as normal, including payment extensions and tailored payment plans for struggling customers.

AGL

Like Origin, AGL has put out a response to the current situation for customers. In summary:

"We have a range of options that we can offer customers who may be struggling to pay their bills, the most important thing to do, is to get in touch with us early, so we can work with you to ensure you are on an affordable plan that suits your circumstances."

- Brett Redman, AGL's Chief Executive Officer & Managing Director

EnergyAustralia

EnergyAustralia will be offering their regular financial hardship assistance via the EnergyAssist program, as well as:

  • Encouraging customers to get in touch online rather than via the phone to avoid long wait times.
  • Customers will not have their power disconnected during this period.
  • Advice and help for small businesses depending on their particular situation with a team of business energy specialists.

Alinta

For customers in Victoria, NSW, SA and QLD, Alinta will apply their regular financial hardship programs. They are also doing the following:

  • Encouraging online communication via MyAccount (on its website), Facebook, online enquiry form or email because of reduced call centre hours.
  • Western Australian residents can access the Continuous Energy Program, which is a similar financial hardship program by another name.

Aurora Energy

In partnership with the Tasmanian government, Aurora has agreed to a price increase cap for the next 12 months and a 100% waiver on the next energy bill for small business customers after 1 April. There will also be:

  • A $5 million special financial hardship program entitled the COVID-19 Customer Support Program. This can include debt freezing, fee and charge waiving and bill relief in addition to regular financial hardship assistance.
  • Suspension of meter reads to protect staff, meaning quarterly reads will be estimated.

Powershop

Powershop are offering their customers:

  • Rate freezes for residential and business customers until 30 June.
  • No late or penalty fees for missed or late payments.
  • No power disconnection for non-payment during this period.

Energy Locals

There will be no disconnection for Energy Locals customers during this period. They've also advised customers to call rather than email with any queries.

For more details on getting in touch with your provider and finding out what financial hardship measures they're offering, check out the table below.

Compare your energy bill to the market

State responses to help with your energy bills

Outside of specific energy providers, most state governments have taken steps to protect low income earners during this pandemic crisis. In Western Australia alone, from 16 March until mid 2021, there is a freeze on household fees and charges.

Here are all the latest state responses in regards to your energy bills:

StateMeasures in place
QLD
  • $200 utility payment for all households, applied as an automatic rebate. EnergyAustralia has stated that this rebate will be applied to eligible accounts on May 2020. Check with your provider when this rebate will be applied to your account.
  • $500 utility rebate for small and medium businesses that consume less than 100,000 kWh, automatically applied
WA
  • Freeze on domestic charges including electricity, water, motor vehicle charges, emergency services levy and public transport fares
  • Doubling Energy Assistance Program payments for low income earners and concession card holders to assist in paying utility bills
NSW
  • $30 million in extra funds for the Energy Accounts Payment Assistance Scheme (EAPA)
ACT
  • Additional $200 to households that are receiving the Utilities Concession. EnergyAustralia has stated that this rebate will be applied to eligible accounts on 30 April 2020. Check with your provider when this rebate will be applied to your account.
  • $750 rebate to small businesses on their next electricity bill
TAS
  • $5 million support fund established in partnership with state supplier Aurora Energy, including payment plans, debt freezing, bill relief and waiving fees and charges

In addition to the above, energy companies will usually help you find out what energy rebates, government grants or assistance programs you might be able to access. If you'd like to check our full list of concessions and rebates organised by state, check out our guide here.

What if your energy provider hasn't said anything about coronavirus?

Not limited to coronavirus, some energy companies still offer financial hardship plans designed to assist residents who are struggling to pay their bills. These programs vary from retailer to retailer, but often include extra time to make payments and payment plans.

Here's a quick rundown of major energy providers' financial hardship plans:

FeatureAGLOriginEnergyAustralia
Payment extension
Payment plansTailored plan that considers your current financial positionSpecially designed plan to cover your debt and energy payments over two yearsWeekly, fortnightly or monthly plans to cover debt and energy fees over 12 months
Centrepay (automatic redirect of Centrelink payments to energy bills)
Financial counselling referral

Contact details of energy providers in relation to financial hardship


ProviderContact NumberDetails
1st Energy1300 426 594More info
ActewAGL1300 138 574More info
AGL1300 659 925More info
Alinta13 37 02More info
Amaysim1300 808 300More info
Amber Electric1300 693 637More info
Aurora Energy1300 10 2010.More info
Blue NRG1300 599 888More info
Click Energy1800 77 59 29More info
Commander Electricity133 914More info
CovaUVIC 1300689866

QLD 1300 555 727

More info
DC Power Co1800 462 668More info
Diamond Energy1300 838 009More info
Discover Energy1300 946 898More info
Dodo Power & Gas1300 374 757More info
Elysian Energy1300 671 799More info
Energy Australia1800 558 643More info
Energy Locals1300 693 637More info
Enova(02) 5622 1700More info
Ergon Energy13 10 46More info
ERM Business EnergyN/AN/A
Future X Energy1300 599 008More info
GloBird Energy133 677More info
Horizon Power1800 267 926More info
Jacana Energy1800 522 262More info
Kleenheat13 21 80More info
Kogan Energy1300 005 123More info
LPE Energy1800 040 168More info
Lumo Energy1300 660 293More info
Mojo Power1300 936 117More info
Momentum Energy1800 007 007More info
Next Business Energy1300 466 398More info
Origin13 24 61More info
OVO EnergyN/AMore info
People Energy1300 788 970More info
Perth Energy(08) 9420 0353More info
Pooled Energy1300 364 703More info
Power and Water1800 245 092More info
Power Direct1300 307 966More info
Powerclub1300 294 459More info
Powershop1800 515 313More info
QEnergy1300 698 992More info
ReAmped EnergyQLD 13 74 68

VIC 1800 307 758

More info
Red Energy131 806More info
Rimfire EnergyN/AN/A
Sanctuary Energy1800 109 099More info
Simply Energy13 88 08More info
Sumo13 88 60More info
Synergy13 13 53More info
Tango Energy1800 010 648More info
TasGas1800 750 750

More info - VIC

More info - TAS

How can you be more efficient with your energy?

  • Review. The first step to saving energy is to understand where the costs are coming from. Identify your main energy-hungry appliances and any sources of inefficiency in your home's design.
  • Time of use. Do you use most electricity during the day or night? If you use the majority of your power in the morning and early afternoon, you might benefit from a time of use tariff, which charges less during these off-peak periods.
  • Energy hotspots. Big energy sinks include heating and cooling, as well as standby lights. Ensure your heating, cooling and cooking devices are properly installed, well-maintained and efficient.
  • Energy-efficient appliances. Appliances account for about 30% of your energy bills. Get simpler appliances with only the features you need and look for higher efficiency star ratings.

If you want more energy-saving tips, we've put together a more comprehensive guide to saving energy and picking the right energy plan. You can also take a look at the video below which explains how switching energy providers could help you lower your bills.


Coronavirus assistance from your Internet provider

With businesses and workplaces closing down or minimising their hours due to the coronavirus outbreak, we'll be seeing a change in the financial situations of everyday Australians in the coming weeks and months. Some Internet companies have introduced special assistance measures to help customers affected by COVID-19 on top of their regular financial hardship programs.

Currently, only four Internet providers have announced extra help for those specifically affected by COVID-19. We're keeping this page regularly updated and will add new information as we hear from providers.

Vodafone

Vodafone has mentioned that customers who have been financially affected either directly or indirectly from COVID-19 shouldn't hesitate to contact them in regards to applying for Vodafone's financial hardship program online or over the phone.

Aussie Broadband

Aussie Broadband has announced a temporary halt on suspending plans due to non-payment, in order to relieve a bit of stress for its customers during this period. Aussie Broadband will continue running its regular financial hardship policy and understand that there will be customers who need an extra hand due to being impacted by COVID-19. They've also reached out to us to expand on their policies, encouraging customers to get into contact with them if they are struggling:

  • Payment plans can be made and include temporarily postponing your payment to partial, ongoing payments over an agreed upon time period. These can be set up via the MyAussie app or by contacting the Aussie Broadband support team.
  • Tailored individual services are available for customers who are experiencing financial difficulties. There is no maximum period of time for these solutions as they as assessed on a case by case basis.

Telstra

Telstra has followed suit and stopped late fees and disconnections until the end of June for small businesses and consumers who aren't able to pay their bills.

Telstra has also set up an online bill assistance hub for customers who need an extra hand. Through the hub, customers can enquire about a payment plan with Telstra, arrange to pay their bills at a later date, suspend services for up to 90 days and reconnect free of charge at the end of that period, or downsize their plans.

Telstra customers who are receiving the JobSeeker payment and have a fixed bundled service or multiple Telstra postpaid mobile plans may be eligible for a $20 monthly discount off their total bill for 6 months. Those on a single Telstra postpaid plan may receive a $10 discount off their bill for 6 months. You can apply from April 20 until June 30.

Optus

From March 27, Optus will be offering the following to their customers (including small businesses):

  • Waiving late payment fees until April 30
  • Suspending disconnection and credit collection activities until April 30

Optus will also be providing more support for customers who are eligible for the Government Coronavirus financial support, with more details to come.

Other Internet providers

Whilst other providers have yet to comment on support services in direct relation to COVID-19, many have introduced bonus data offers for their customers to ease the transition to working from home or self-isolation at home.

Coronavirus assistance: Get extra mobile data for free

NBN Co's coronavirus broadband relief package

On April 17, NBN Co announced a $150 million financial relief and assistance fund intended to assist low-income Australians, and selected small and medium businesses to maintain access to Internet services during this coronavirus period. In response to the relief package, many providers have stepped out to offer discounted or free NBN services for disadvantaged families with school aged children. To be eligible for these deals from Internet providers, you'll need to meet the following requirements:

  • Have a member of the household receiving the JobSeeker Payment or Family Tax Benefit Part A or B
  • Have a school aged child living at your address, and
  • Not be currently connected to the NBN

The below table lists the current offers that providers have announced:

ProviderWhat's on offer for low income households
Aussie BroadbandFree NBN25 plans will be awarded to customers on a case-by-case basis.
SuperloopOnline Learning Plan launched - giving away 5000 free NBN25 services until the end of September.
Dodo$30 monthly discount on the price of their NBN25 101GB plan for the first 6 months (originally $60/month). Free upgrade on this plan to unlimited data until June 30.
VodafoneFree Essential NBN plan until September 30 for eligible customers. Must be on plan for at least one month, but then you can leave at any time. BYO modem or purchase one from Vodafone.
FlipPlan fees waived for NBN25 plans until September 30. Modem purchase from Flip not included. You can BYO modem, but plan will instead cost you $10/month.
IPSTARFree Sky Muster Plus plans, where 70% of your Internet usage is unmetered.

For more detailed information about your eligibility and how to sign up for these offers, make sure you contact your Internet provider directly.

What if your Internet provider hasn't specified anything about coronavirus?

Many Internet providers already have financial hardship policies in place to assist struggling customers. Here's a quick comparison of what's available from some of the major broadband providers, though you should always check with your own provider to see what's actually available for you.

FeatureTelstraOptusVodafoneTPG
Payment extension
Plan reviewMay involve limiting services.May involve service restriction.May involve service restriction.Potentially moving you to a lower cost plan.
Flexible payments/payment plans
Not explicitly mentioned in its policy.
Waive late fees

Unlike some energy providers who explicitly include financial counselling referrals, Internet providers unfortunately don't offer the same service. However, some Internet providers do include links to free financial counsellor services in their financial hardship policies which are worth a look at.

Contact details of Internet providers for financial hardship


ProviderContact NumberDetails
10Mates1800 870 817More info
Accord1300 017 150More info
Activ8me13 22 88More info
ALDImobile1300 989 000More info
amaysim Broadband1300 808 300More info
ANT Communications1300 268 266More info
Aussie Broadband1300 880 905More info
Australia Broadband1300 023 354More info
Barefoot1300 017 622More info
Belong Broadband1300 235 664More info
Bendigo Telco Broadband1300 228 123More info
Better Life Broadband03 9018 5349More info
Catch Connect1300 222 825More info
Clear Networks1300 855 215More info
Click Broadband1300 254 255More info
CMobile Broadband1300 545 000More info
Commander1300 303 687More info
dcsi1300 66 55 75More info
Dodo Broadband1300 907 283More info
Exetel1300 788 141More info
Flip Broadband(02) 8666 8258 More info
Foxtel Broadband131 999More info
Future Broadband08 6117 0600More info
gotalk1800 468 255More info
Harbour ISP1300 366 169More info
Hello Mobile1800 007 007More info
iiNet13 22 58More info
Inspired Broadband1300 107 744More info
Internode1300 889 188More info
iPrimus131 789More info
IPSTAR1300 464 778More info
Kogan Broadband1300 010 400More info
Lebara126 122More info
Logitel Broadband1300 30 1428More info
Mate Broadband13 14 13More info
Mint Telecom1300 586 468More info
Moose Broadband3193 9400More info
More Telecom1800 733 368More info
MyNetFone1300 731 048More info
MyRepublicN/AMore info
NextalkN/AMore info
Optus13 39 37More info
Origin Broadband13 24 61More info
OVO Broadband13 56 86More info
Reachnet1300 798 007More info
SkyMesh1300 759 637More info
Southern Phone13 14 64More info
SpinTel Broadband13 22 10More info
Start Broadband1300 475 155More info
Superloop1800 10 12 10More info
Tangerine Telecom1800 211 112More info
Telechoice1300 835 324More info
Telstra Broadband13 22 00More info
Think Mobile Broadband1300 2 84465More info
Tomi1300 655 982More info
TPG BroadbandN/AMore info
Uniti Wireless1300 847 201More info
Vodafone Broadband1300 650 410More info
Westnet Broadband1300 786 068More info
Yomojo Broadband1300 966 656More info

How to save on your Internet bill

Here's a couple things for you consider when you're trying to find a cheaper Internet plan:

  • Speed. Faster plans attract higher monthly costs. Consider whether you actually need the speed tier you're on or if you could get by with a slower plan. For example, if you have a household of two and don't really need to stream ultra-high-definition video, you would likely be fine downgrading from NBN50 to NBN25. Remember, you can always switch back later if you aren't happy.
  • Data caps. While many plans offer unlimited data these days, limited data plans still exist. You may be able to save a little money each month by switching from unlimited to limited, especially if you really don't need all that data. You can use our data usage calculator to get a rough estimate of how much data you go through on your home Internet each month.
  • Provider switch. Providers are constantly offering promotional deals to lure in new customers. If you're motivated, you could switch from provider to provider every 6 months to a year to take advantage of temporary plan cost reductions or the like.
  • Modems. Some providers will let you bring your own modem when you buy a plan with them, while others require you to buy a new one. Switching to providers that don't force you to shell out for a new modem can save you around a hundred dollars each time.

Picture:GettyImages

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