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TLC exploring one bill

14 July 2020

The Lines Company (TLC) is continuing to explore the option of retail billing which would see its bill to customers combined with that from an energy retailer.

But it says any change would be complex and it will need to work carefully through a range of options to get the best outcome for customers and the wider community.

Last year the Electricity Pricing Review (EPR) said TLC should consider retailer billing but noted any change would require “closer study” to decide whether or not to proceed.

TLC chief executive Sean Horgan said while moving to one bill would bring TLC in line with industry standard, the change had not been mandated and there was a variety of ways to approach it.

“We are doing exactly what the EPR suggested. We’re having a really good look at what retailer billing would mean for us, our customers and our wider community.  But it’s a complex issue and it’s going to take some time to work through.”

It was clear retailer billing presented both opportunities and challenges for TLC and its customers, he said.

“There’s a lot of work underway to understand the implications. We need to talk to retailers and see how we would integrate with their systems, engage with regulators and also change our internal processes,” he said.

“But a large part is understanding what customers think to determine how any change we make can deliver on what they most need.”

Earlier this year TLC hosted a customer panel feedback meeting where a range of topics were discussed, including retailer billing. A second session focused on retailer billing was planned for April but was delayed by COVID-19.

“We’ve had some very initial feedback, but the project still has a long way to go. No decisions have been made yet or are likely to be made for some time. There are a lot of discussions to be held yet.”

Horgan said TLC had implemented a number of changes in recent months to help customers including deploying  dedicated customer service support for vulnerable customers experiencing energy hardship, introducing a payment plan to smooth out their payments and providing significant billing relief for residential customers in April during the COVID-19 lockdown.

TLC is continuing to support Maru Energy Trust to insulated 500 homes on the network over the next 12 months.

TLC chair Mark Darrow said the board has overseen “considerable positive change” in the business over the last three years to directly benefit customers and the wider community and continue to look for more ways to innovate and improve the customer experience.

“We are focused on continually improving the service we offer our customers. A review of our current billing methodology is one of a number of key initiatives we are currently working on. We can certainly see the merits and simplicity in consolidating energy bills and will continue to work diligently so an optimum and lasting solution can be achieved.”

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