Victorian water utilities offer better bill assistance than gas, electricity

Posted 11 October 2017

Recent payment-plan data shows that many Victorian households are receiving more help to pay bills from water utilities than from electricity and gas providers. 

Brotherhood of St Laurence Research and Policy Centre General Manager Professor Shelley Mallett told the Herald Sun that far more water customers were on payment plans in 2015-16 than electricity consumers.

Mallet said 161,165 households had been placed on instalment plans for their water bills, compared to 88,639 households and 68,115 households for electricity and gas respectively. 

“This is a good thing, because it is enabling people to manage their water bills better and we think the electricity retailers could learn a lot from these strategies,” Mallett said.

Mallett said the installment plan trend is a result of financial prioritisation needs for Victorian households. 

“For many households, their incomes aren’t as predictable anymore … Families will prioritise rent, health and food before they turn towards utilities,” Mallett said. 

“Unlike other utilities, water prices are regulated and have not been as dramatic, but they have gone up by about 4% in the last year.”

City West Water Managing Director David Ryan said the utility’s profits are a result of efficiencies that would allow for savings to be passed on to customers when new prices are rolled out.

“Profits are also due to population growth and development, and are used for the benefit of customers through lower prices and lower bills going forward,” Ryan said.

“We understand that affordability is of paramount importance to our customers, which is why we have a strong, continued focus on delivering reliable services for the lowest price possible.”

Yarra Valley Water Spokeswoman Mandy Hay said: “We remain focused on keeping customer’s bills as low as possible and have reduced prices by 8.1% since 2013-14.”

Other Victorian utilities have expressed the same sentiment, with South East Water Managing Director Terri Benson stating that 4500 households were supported through the utility’s assistance programs.

“[Our] profit result will allow us to have downward pressure on prices over coming years,” she said.
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