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Media Release

Bill backlog: 2.2 million payments outstanding due to the pandemic

        • One in four Aussie households have deferred at least one bill
        • Aussies owe an estimated $381 million in outstanding energy payments
        • Quick tips to save on your energy bill

16 June 2020, Sydney, Australia

Aussies are putting their bills on the backburner due to the financial impact of coronavirus, according to new research by Finder, Australia's most visited comparison site.

A recent Finder survey of 1,008 respondents revealed that a quarter of Australian households (25%) have put off paying one or more bills during the pandemic. This is equivalent to 2.2 million unpaid bills.

Power bills are the most common expense that people are falling behind on, with 1 in 10 electricity customers (10%) pausing their payments during this time.

Finder data shows that the average energy bill is $385 per quarter, meaning Aussies have racked up an estimated $381 million in outstanding energy charges.

The research also found that 7% of people have put off paying a gas bill, while 6% have been unable to afford council rates.

Other bills that are often deferred include water bills (6%), credit card payments (6%) and mobile phone accounts (5%).

Kate Browne, personal finance expert at Finder, said that millions of people are struggling to pay their bills because of the financial havoc wreaked by coronavirus.

"The financial strain of COVID-19 has made it difficult for some people to even keep the lights on.

"It's no wonder that energy bills are deferred the most – they can fluctuate wildly with the season and are one of the biggest household expenses behind your rent or mortgage.

"Council rates can also come at an eye-watering cost, especially for those households already burdened financially," she said.

More millennials have deferred paying a bill than any other age group: over a third (36%) of those aged 26-39 have put off their utility payments compared to just 6% of baby boomers.

City dwellers (25%) are also more likely than regional Aussies (18%) to have taken a bill break during the pandemic.

Browne urged Aussies to ask their provider for some breathing room to avoid penalties.

"With no agreement in place, unpaid bills may eventually fall into the hands of debt collectors. You also run the risk of voiding your insurance if your premiums are unpaid.

"If you're struggling financially, contact your provider. Most companies have coronavirus hardship measures in place, which can help households to keep their head above water and protect your credit score.

"A simple phone call could turn a default into a deferred payment," Browne said.

Have you deferred or put off paying any of the following bills due to coronavirus?
Yes, electricity10%
Yes, gas7%
Yes, council rates6%
Yes, water6%
Yes, credit card payments6%
Yes, mobile plan5%
Yes, car registration4%
Yes, car insurance4%
Yes, broadband3%
Yes, other2%
No77%

Source: Finder June survey 2020

Quick tips to save on your energy bill

  • Look for discounts. This can be as simple as getting a bill reduction for paying on time or signing up online. If you notify your provider that you want to switch, you may even be offered a discount to stay.
  • Bundle your energy plan. Want to connect both your electricity and your gas? You may be eligible for a discount by bundling both plans with the same provider.
  • Apply for concessions or rebates. Some providers offer concession discounts for pensioners, veterans, low-income households or households with specialised medical equipment.
  • Take advantage of real-time energy monitoring. Some providers offer a smartphone app or desktop software that lets you track your energy usage. This can help you understand how much power you're using, and where to cut back.
  • Opt for monthly billing. While this won't lower the overall cost of your annual usage, it can break your payments down into more manageable amounts and help reduce quarterly bill shock.

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For further information

Disclaimer

The information in this release is accurate as of the date published, but rates, fees and other product features may have changed. Please see updated product information on finder.com.au's review pages for the current correct values.

About us

Every month 2.2 million unique visitors turn to Finder to save money and time, and to make important life choices. We compare virtually everything from credit cards, phone plans, health insurance, travel deals and much more.

Our free service is 100% independently-owned by two Australians: Fred Schebesta and Frank Restuccia. Since launching in 2006, Finder has helped Aussies find what they need from 1,800+ brands across 100+ categories.

We continue to expand and launch around the globe, and now operate in the United States and the United Kingdom. For further information visit www.finder.com.au.

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