Essential household services
Whether you rent or buy, you will need to have household services such as water, electricity and gas connected to the property. The service providers may be government agencies or private companies, depending on your location – check the telephone directory.
You will generally need to give service providers a few days’ notice before moving into a new property.
Before signing a contract for household services, ensure that you actually need the service. For example, do not sign a three year contract for electricity supply if you are living in temporary housing. It is important to understand the terms and conditions of agreements with suppliers before signing a contract. A help guide to manage energy services at home is available at www.accc.gov.au/publications/managing-energy-services-at-home The Australian Energy Regulator also provides more information at www.aer.gov.au/consumers/aer-resources
The company will send you a bill regularly with the costs for their service. Contact them immediately if you are unable to pay the bill by the due date, or if you want to change your arrangements.
Your supplier can help you if you have difficulty paying your bills and you can avoid having your services disconnected.
Electricity and Gas
For information, including videos, to help you select an electricity and gas supplier and to know your rights, visit the Australian Government Energy Made Easy website at www.energymadeeasy.gov.au
When selecting a supplier remember to check:
how long the contract is
whether there are fees to connect the service or if you exit early
that the supplier knows if you receive concessions or income support.
The Energy Made Easy website also has fact sheets in a number of different languages (www.energymadeeasy.gov.au/publications-0) and a list of energy ombudsmen (www.energymadeeasy.gov.au/useful-contacts) to contact if you are unable to solve a problem with your electricity or gas supplier.
Centrepay is a voluntary bill-paying service that is free for Centrelink customers (go to www.humanservices.gov.au/customer/services /centrelink/centrepay ). You can use Centrepay to arrange regular deductions from your Centrelink payment to pay your bills, expenses and household costs, such as rent, gas, electricity, water and phone. You can start or change a deduction at any time. The quickest way to do it is online using your Centrelink online account through myGov at www.my.gov.au
Phones and internet
In Australia, cell phones are known as ‘mobile phones’ and telephones fixed at your home are known as ‘landline phones’ or ‘landlines’.
Contracts for these services are often called ‘plans’. To compare telephone and internet services, you can search online by entering terms such as ‘mobile plan’, ‘landline plan’ and ‘internet plan’.
Check the conditions carefully with the company and read their short document called the Critical Information Summary before signing the contract.
These are some common features of Australian telephone and internet contracts:
Services usually require a connection fee.
You may need to enter a one year or two year contract.
Most mobile services include a calls allowance or a data allowance each month for mobile broadband and you may have to pay more if you exceed the allowance.
Many services include spend management alerts – an SMS or email informing you if you have exceeded 50%, 85% or %100 of your monthly allowance.
You can choose from pre-paid services (pay before you use) or post-paid services (the provider will send you a regular bill).
If you receive a telephone or internet bill and you cannot pay it by the due date, you should contact the company.
Telephone calls to other countries are often not included in monthly phone plan allowances. These calls can be expensive. You may need to monitor your overseas calls carefully or use a pre-paid call card (available from convenience stores).
If you want the internet connected to your home or to access it through a wireless device, you will need to enter into a contract with an internet service provider. Before signing any contract, be sure that you can afford to pay for the service and it meets your needs. You can also buy pre-paid wireless internet connections.
There are a number of programs that provide free or affordable internet access and training. For example, public libraries and local councils may offer free internet access.
You should only use phone and internet companies that are members of the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman (TIO) scheme (listed at www.tio.com.au/members/members-listing).
If something goes wrong with your telephone or internet service and the company is unable to resolve it, you can make a free complaint to the TIO by phoning 1800 062 058 or going to www.tio.com.au/making-a-complaint