In 2016/17, 28,628 Victorian households had their electricity disconnected, and 17,494 households were disconnected from gas. The impact of disconnection is severe. Families are unable to cook meals, keep food fresh or even charge a phone. And with the implementation of smart meters, retailers can remotely disconnect services – from a comfortable distance which shields them from the human impact of their decision. To minimise the possibility of an unfair disconnection, Consumer Action proposes the creation of a new agency, which we call Connections Victoria.
Connections Victoria would use home visits to establish whether disconnection is justified, before an energy supplier can remotely “flick the switch”. A Connections Victoria officer would assess individual circumstances and provide an independent assessment of the impact that disconnection will have on that household, to protect vulnerable Victorians from unjustified disconnection.
It is critical that energy, an essential service, is not cut off without a proper assessment of the impact the action will have.