Did you know that Customers in Embedded Networks are entitled to customer protections under energy law and that exempt on-sellers (such as a Body Corporate or land owner) must offer those protections.
Since March 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic has placed many in our community under enormous financial pressure, leaving many customers unable to pay their energy bills or worse, forced to make the choice between putting food on the table, or paying their utility bill. At Altogether, we never want to see a customer making a choice between essential items and energy. Where customers can pay their bill, they must, but when a customer needs help, we feel compelled to step in.
The Community Support Program
One of the many important duties of an energy retailer is to manage customer debt. Although not a financial institution, we do supply services to our customers in advance and the customer pays in arrears, making Altogether a creditor and, as such, we have a duty of care to help customers maintain low debt levels. The Community Support Program recognises the unique circumstances surrounding COVID-19 and, we hope, the temporary nature of the economic impact. The program also recognises that the economy will take longer to recover if customers are burdened with debts due to the loss of work, reduced work hours or isolation. For this reason, the Community Support Program will provide eligible customers with free energy* for up to six months. The Community Support Program also provides support to our small business customers.
The problem for Embedded Networks and exempt on-sellers
The vast majority of energy customers in Australia are serviced by authorised energy retailers. For this reason, and many others, many of the financial support programs offered by state and federal governments are not accessible to exempt on-sellers. This means that, for many customers in Embedded Networks, customers may not receive the support they need, putting exempt on-sellers under enormous financial pressure.
Introducing the Fast Track Transition Service
It usually takes many months for an exempt on-seller to transfer their Embedded Network to an authorised retailer. To protect customers in need now, and to prevent the exempt on-seller from being unable to pay their energy bills, Altogether is introducing the Fast Track Transition Service. The Fast Track Transition Service allows an exempt on-seller to assign Altogether as a retailer for 364 days with immediate effect, no delays and no nasty paperwork. If your community is serviced by Altogether, all you need to do is complete a Fast Track Transition Service application. Once submitted, we will write to your gate meter energy retailer advising them that you are no longer responsible for your electricity bills. We will also write to your customers (within 1 week) letting them know about the support options available to them.
How much does it cost?
We do not charge any fees for the Fast Track Transition Service. The program is designed to support customers and charging fees is not a great way to do that. You will still pay for your common property electricity at the same rates as before and we will not charge any administration fees or apply any mark up. Not all things are too good to be true.
Residential pricing under the Fast Track Transition Service
To allow us to support as many customers as possible, as quickly as possible, all communities accessing the Community Support Program via the Fast Track Transition Service will pay the same exceptionally low price. Residential and small business customers will have access to our Community Support Tariff of 17.5c/kWh and 59c/day. Eligible customers will, of course, receive a full credit and so will have nothing to pay. Customers who are not impacted by COVID-19 will be expected to pay on time as normal, but will benefit from the same low rate. Common property power will be charged on a standard pass-through basis with no fees or charges added by Altogether.
Body Corporate Approvals
The good news is that you do not need AGM approvals to protect customers now. The Fast Track Transition Service has been carefully put together so that the definition of our agreement is not a “Service Contract” under the Body Corporate Communities Management Act. Any authorised person (usually a Body Corporate Chairperson) can complete the application process without formal general meeting ratification.
Eligible Exempt On-Sellers
If you are currently an Exempt On-Seller serviced by Altogether and you are unable (or is likely to become unable) to be able to financially support the growing needs of customers, it is likely that the Body Corporate is eligible for the Fast Track Transition Service. Altogether has worked closely with the authorities to secure a declaration of no further action. This declaration means that a Body Corporate can assign Altogether as it’s Embedded Network Operator, by declaring that it is unable or unwilling comply with customer protection requirements. The declaration of no further action means that the Body Corporate will not be prosecuted by the regulator for non-compliance, on the basis that the Body Corporate has taken steps to provide customers access to the Community Support Program. To be eligible, Altogether and the exempt on-seller must declare that both parties are working to protect customers and that by working together, we have avoided negative customer outcomes. We are required to record this declaration for a period of 2 years.
Getting started is as easy as submitting an application. We need your details, the details of your Embedded Network, and your declaration of intent. Once received, we will get in touch with you immediately to start the process.