Problems paying your utility bills

Help is out there

Electricity, gas, water and phone bills can be difficult to pay if you don't have spare money in the bank. These types of bills can be hard to budget for as you don't always know how big they'll be until they appear in your letterbox.

Here are the steps you can take if you are struggling to pay your utility bills.

Contact your provider

If you're having trouble paying a utility bill the first thing you should do is contact your provider. Most companies have hardship officers who can help you work out a plan to pay the bill in instalments. They can also help you apply for emergency utility bill vouchers that you can use to meet minimum payments.

Smart tip

Talk to your provider about your bills rather than putting them on your credit card and running up a big debt.

If your utility provider is not helpful, you can make a complaint to one of the state-based utility ombudsman schemes.

Apply for a rebate or voucher

Rebates and vouchers can help you pay your utility bills. This list shows you what vouchers are available and where to go to apply for them.


Rebates and vouchers Utility
Department of Human Services: Advance Payment  13 62 40 all
Department of Human Services: Utilities Allowance   13 62 40 electricity, water, sewerage rates
Department of Human Services: Telephone Allowance  13 62 40 telephone
Department of Human Services: Essential Medical Equipment Payment  13 62 40 electricity
Telstra Bill Assistance Program   13 2200  telephone
Telstra: Pensioner discount  13 2200 telephone

Australian Capital Territory

Rebates and vouchers Utility

Department of Community Services: Energy Concession  
Actew AGL Retail 13 14 93
Origin Country Energy 13 24 61
Energy Australia 13 34 66

electricity, gas

New South Wales

Rebates and vouchers Utility
Trade & Investment Resources & Energy: Low Income Household Rebate  1300 736 122 electricity, gas
Trade & Investment Resources & Energy: Family Energy Rebate 1300 736 122 electricity
Water Payment Assistance Scheme
Sydney Water: Financial assistance  13 20 92
Hunter Water: Payment assistance  1300 657 657


Rebates and vouchers Utility
Department of Communities: Electricity and gas rebates  13 74 68 electricity, gas
Department of Communities: Medical cooling and heating electricity concession scheme  13 74 68 electricity
Department of Communities: Home Energy Emergency Assistance Scheme  13 74 68 electricity, gas
Department of Communities: Electricity life support  
13 74 68

South Australia

Rebates and vouchers Utility
Department Communities and Social Inclusion: Residential Park Resident Concessions 1800 307 758 electricity, gas, water, council rates
Department Communities and Social Inclusion: Energy concessions 1800 307 758 electricity, gas
Department of Communities and Social Inclusion: Water and sewerage rates  1800 307 758 water, sewerage rates


Rebates and vouchers Utility
Department of Human Services: Utility Relief Grant Scheme 
1800 658 521
Department of Human Services: Annual Electricity Concession  
1800 658 521
Department of Human Services: Life Support Machine Electricity Concession  1800 658 521 electricity
Department of Human Services: Medical Cooling Concession  
1800 658 521
Department of Human Services: Winter Energy Concession  
1800 658 521
Department of Human Services: Service to Property Charge Concession  1800 658 521 electricity
Department of Human Services: Electricity Transfer Fee Waiver  
1800 658 521
Department of Human Services: Water and Sewerage Concession  
1800 658 521
water, sewerage rates
Department of Human Services: Non-mains water rebate  
1800 658 521

Western Australia

Rebates and vouchers Utility
Concessions WA: Hardship Utilities Grant Scheme (HUGS)   (08) 9222 2739 electricity, gas, water

See a financial counsellor

Financial counsellors offer a free, confidential service to help you sort out your money problems. They may help you approach your utility bill provider to work out a payment plan or apply for vouchers. Find out more about financial counsellors and what they do.

If you're in a crisis and need emergency relief or emotional support see our urgent money help webpage. 

Smooth out your bills

Companies such as AGL offer 'bill smoothing' where you can make fortnightly or monthly payments towards your future utility bill so it is not so painful when the big bill comes. Ask your provider if they offer this service and how it is set up.

Centrepay is a voluntary bill-paying service which is free for Centrelink customers. Use Centrepay to arrange regular deductions from your Centrelink payment for ongoing expenses like rent, childcare, electricity and water as well as other household costs. To find out more see Department of Human Services' Centrepay.

Find out more about smoothing your bills.

Make a complaint

If your utility provider won't help you, you can complain to one of the ombudsman schemes below.
Energy and Water Ombudsman Services in each state provide advice and conciliation services for consumers with complaints about energy or water providers.

ACT - ACT Civil & Administrative Tribunal 02 6207 7740

NSW - Energy & Water Ombudsman NSW 1800 246 545

Northern Territory - Ombudsman NT 1800 806 380

Queensland - Energy Ombudsman Queensland 1800 662 837

South Australia - Energy and Water Ombudsman SA 1800 665 565

Tasmania - Energy Ombudsman Tasmania 1800 001 170

Victoria - Energy and Water Ombudsman (Victoria) 1800 500 509

Western Australia - Energy Ombudsman Western Australia 1800 754 004

The Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman (1800 062 058) is a free, national independent dispute resolution scheme for complaints about phone or internet services.

Reduce your usage

If your utility bills are bigger than they should be perhaps you can look at ways to reduce your usage. See our simple ways to save on your power and water bills

Take action before your bills pile up and remember that it is in your utility provider's interest to help you with any bill problems.

Related links

Last updated: 28 May 2018