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2015 Hardship & Affordability Conference Program

The Hardship and Affordability Conference 2015: Energy, Water and Telecommunications Program is currently being finalised, and we expect to release the full program in January 2015. Please be aware that what is currently listed below is subject to change.

Eventbrite - SACOSS 2015 Hardship & Affordability Conference: Energy, Water & Telecommunications

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Hardship & Affordability Conference 2015: Energy, Water & Telecommunications
Ian Mclachlan Rooms, Adelaide Oval
Wednesday 29 April

8am - Registration
9am - Welcome and introductions, including traditional Welcome to Country by Kaurna Elder
9.15am - Official Opening Address

9.30am - Expert Panel Session

Scene Setting: Telecommunication Hardship
While there are clear benefits of new communications technology, there is a growing ‘digital divide’ between those who can take advantages of the new technologies and those who cannot. Telecommunications deliver macroeconomic benefits but also provide improved business and work opportunities and productivity gains.

Scene Setting: Energy Hardship
Electricity price increases far in excess of general price and wage increases has led to widespread and systemic damaging effects for low income households. Despite households trying to limit their energy usage to reduce their bill amounts, the majority of low income households interviewed were cutting back on essential items to pay higher household energy bills.

Presented by:
Dr Lynne Chester and
Dr Lareen Newman

Sponsored by ElectraNet

10.30am - Morning Tea - Sponsored by Energy Australia

11.00am - Showcase: Delivering Best Practice

What makes transformational change possible in a business environment?
Yarra Valley Water is widely recognised for its better practice in dealing with customers in financial difficulty. Yarra Valley Water provides water supply and sewerage services to over 1.7 million people and over 50,000 businesses in the northern and eastern suburbs of Melbourne.

The Australian Bankers’ Association (ABA) provides analysis, advice and advocacy and contributes to the development of public policy on banking and other financial services. The ABA is recognised by Financial Counselling Australia for its focus on helping struggling Australians manage their financial commitments, including a financial hardship package and the ‘Affordable Banking’ website.

Credit Corp is an Australian receivables management company that purchases and collects consumer debts including unpaid credit cards, personal loans and phone bills. Credit Corp strives to deal with its customers in a professional and ethical manner.

Presented by:
Pat McCafferty, Managing Director, Yarra Valley Water
Christine Cupitt, Policy Director – Retail Policy, Australian Bankers’ Association
Laura Pringle, Customer Experience Manager, Credit Corp

Sponsored by SA Water

12.00pm - Lunch - Sponsored by Energy Australia

12.45pm - Consumer Protection Spotlight

Effective consumer engagement is essential to ensuring that measures directed at consumers will have positive impacts. This session will begin with a review of the action that is being taken on a national level to address hardship and affordability issues. The session will conclude with an overview of a SACOSS research project into the support the community sector provides to consumers who are at risk of or experience disconnection/restriction from electricity, gas and/or water.

Presented by:
Ross Womersley, SACOSS
Gavin Dufty, St Vincent de Paul, and
Lauren Solomon, AGL Energy

Sponsored by UnitingCare Wesley Bowden

1.30pm - Concurrent Sessions

Hardship Response
This session will explore better practice in hardship response for energy, water and telecommunications. The Responding to Customers in Financial Hardship: Principles and Practices for Telecommunication Providers Guidelines, the Australian Energy Regulator’s Hardship Review and SA Water’s Customer Assist Program will all be featured.

Presented by:
Fiona Cameron, Australian Energy Regulator,
Kerry Rowlands, SA Water, and Fiona Guthrie, Financial Counselling Australia

Sponsored by Baptist Care

Consumer Complaints
What are the emerging systemic issues in energy, water and telecommunications? This session will explore common complaints as well as measures to address widespread issues.

Presented by:
Sandy Canale, EWOSA, and
Simon Cohen Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman

Better Practice Customer

What defines a better practice customer relationship?  This session will focus on the key elements required to build and sustain mutually beneficial customer relationships.  

Presented by:
Andrea Linsenmeier, Origin Energy,
Peter Sutherland, ACT Civil and Administrative Tribunal, and
Ciara Sterling, Yarra Valley Water

Sponsored by Australian Gas Networks

2.45pm - Afternoon Tea - Sponsored by Energy Australia
3.00pm - Concurrent Sessions

Fees and Charges
Retail markets can be confusing and complex for consumers to navigate.  In particular retailer fees and charges can be difficult to understand.  This session will explore common fees and charges, those that are less known and the impacts of these on vulnerable consumers.

Presented by:
Gavin Dufty, St Vincent de Paul, and
Dr Greg Ogle, SACOSS

Comparing Prices
Consumers face an overwhelming number of choices in relation to energy market prices but how does this compare with what is happening in telecommunications? This session will explore the myriad of energy and telco price options available to consumers and what to look for in identifying a better deal.

Presented by:
Andrew Nance, St Kitts Associates, and
Erin Turner, CHOICE

Understanding consumer decision making processes is essential to ensuring better outcomes for consumers. This session will focus on what is known about consumer behaviour and how this should impact on contract terms and conditions.

Presented by:
Gerard Brody, Consumer Action Law Centre, and
Teresa Corbin, ACCAN

4.15pm - Hardship & Affordability Q&A Session

Industry Better Practice
What constitutes better practice and what is going to enable businesses to undertake transformational change? This session will explore what initiatives are currently in the pipeline for enabling better practice in dealing with customers in financial stress.

Bob Weymouth

Cameron O’Reilly, Chief Executive Officer, Energy Retailers Association of Australia
Lewis W Owens, Non-Executive Director, Board of SA Water
Wendy Campana, Chief Executive Officer, Local Government Association
Robert Morsillo, Senior Adviser, Telstra

Sponsored by Origin Energy

5.00pm - Close of Official Proceedings
5.10pm - Uniting Communities Post Conference Networking Session
6.00pm - Close