AS the summer swelter approaches and household power use spikes, energy consultant Anne Armansin has a tip for Queenslanders struggling to pay rising energy bills.
“Fans first, not air conditioning,” Anne Armansin, who works in partnership with the St Vincent de Paul Society, said.
“And if you are using air conditioning, maintain a temperature no lower than 24 degrees Celsius.”
Mrs Armansin works four days a week at the society’s Family Support Centre in Inala helping people in need keep their electricity on and their power costs down.
“I saw a lady last week who owes $7000,” she said.
“She’s been accumulating bills since 2016. I suspect part of her problem is unfair pricing.
“The government has taken steps to curb energy providers who have been increasing the rates people pay every three months.”
With 20 years’ experience dealing with consumer issues in the energy industry, Mrs Armansin has witnessed massive power hikes, and is passionate about helping people understand how energy is used and calculated, manage their bills, and save money.
“Coming in here is a watershed moment,” she said.
“Options are laid on the table, and we find a solution to reduce the dreadful stress of having the power disconnected.
“And it’s a very real threat.
“We’ll have a discussion about what their expenses are, what the family situation is. Perhaps they are not being paid the State Government rebate they are entitled to.
“That is worth over $300 a year in discounts.
“We can check to see if the customer has had any unforeseen, unexpected expenses during the last 12 months that help them to qualify for the government home energy emergency assistance fund that can pay up to $720 towards people’s energy accounts.
“And then we talk to the energy company about making a workable payment plan for an affordable amount and going on to the energy company’s hardship program.”
Mrs Armansin is concerned about energy industry practices, including confusing company deals and poor customer service.
She singles out one company, Click Energy, that last financial year received almost a thousand complaints lodged with Queensland’s energy ombudsman.
“Nobody appreciates having their energy pricing increased every single quarter, for the bills to be read in such a way that it looks like your pricing is going down, but you’ve got to read very carefully to see that it’s going up,” she said.
Across the board, formal complaints to the ombudsman increased by 37 per cent during 2017-18.
Complaints against the major providers also increased – Origin by 16 per cent and AGL by 27 per cent.
Mrs Armansin has some other practical household tips for consumers trying to reduce bills.
“Don’t leave your TV on all day. Don’t use your XBox for more than a couple of hours,” she said.
“And make sure every adult living in the household pays something towards the energy account.
“The average household pays about $5 a day for energy.
“So if you can plan ahead and make an arrangement to pay via Centrepay (a free billing service that makes regular deductions from Centrelink payments) or direct debit to the energy company as you earn your money, then you are not faced with a quarterly bill that gives you a nasty shock.”
Contact Anne Armansin at energyaid.com.au