Overview

The Essential Services Commission will be designing a long-term, consistent approach to addressing consumer vulnerability across the commission’s work over the next year.

The bushfires in early 2020 and the coronavirus pandemic have highlighted the importance of this work. People are experiencing new forms of vulnerability and existing vulnerabilities are being exacerbated. The importance of understanding the perspectives of consumers experiencing vulnerability in the work of the commission has never been more prominent.

The commission has released an approach paper for the development of this strategy and is now consulting on how to define consumer vulnerability in the current coronavirus environment and what the strategy should include.

How this affects you

This work will inform how the commission takes into account the views of all consumers in its work, especially consumers experiencing vulnerability. It will set a direction for how the commission helps to promote the long-term interests of Victorian consumers and the quality, reliability and service of their essential services like water and energy.

What we are looking at

The commission is looking at how to ensure the way we regulate captures the experiences of people experiencing different forms of vulnerability (whether that’s due to ongoing barriers or individual events).

Our approach: research, engagement and thought leadership will inform our strategy.

To help us understand how vulnerability has changed in the coronavirus context we will do:

  • qualitative interviews with community workers and volunteers on consumer experiences in the energy market (conducted by the Consumer Policy Research Centre).
  • quantitative data analysis to capture the systemic factors impacting on consumers in the current environment, allowing us to monitor the conditions of vulnerability.

Our engagement will build strong relationships with stakeholders and establish trust and authority to act on issues related to consumer vulnerability.

Engagement will include:

  • continuing community sector roundtables on the social and economic effects of the coronavirus pandemic.
  • a community sector reference group of consumer and community representative organisations across Victoria to test ideas and provide advice.
  • deliberative consumer engagement to ensure we reflect the informed views of consumers, including how they define ‘consumer wellbeing’.
  • targeted industry engagement through industry roundtables and cross-sector workshops to share insights and examples of better practice. Our regulated sectors are on the frontline providing customer service and their insights will inform the challenges and opportunities our strategy will address.
  • dedicated internal engagement, including:
    • an internal working group
    • webinars featuring expert speakers
    • internal ‘champions’ to support our external engagement
    • targeted workshops to develop outcomes.

We know how important it is to model our values and expectations. We are developing frameworks for engaging with consumers experiencing vulnerability to build our engagement capability and share better practice:

  • Guidance for working with victim-survivors of family violence, developed in partnership with Domestic Violence Victoria. It will inform the next stages of our work on family violence, which will require direct engagement with victim-survivors.
  • Guidance for sensitive and appropriate engagement with consumers experiencing vulnerability, developed in partnership with the University of Melbourne’s Social Equity Institute. This includes a tool to assess the accessibility of online communications, and a roadmap for engagement for the vulnerability strategy.

We are committed to growing our capabilities and demonstrating thought leadership. We will continue to share insights and build knowledge in a collaborative and inclusive way.

Watch our project launch

Tell us what should be included in our consumer vulnerability strategy

The commission is committed to meaningful engagement and collaboration to develop the vulnerability strategy and invites your feedback on:

  • how to define consumer vulnerability in the current coronavirus environment, and
  • what the consumer vulnerability strategy should include.

In particular, the questions the commission is keen to hear from you about are:

  • What experiences of vulnerability have you seen? Particularly through the coronavirus pandemic?
  • What should the commission have regard to in ensuring it regulates with the experiences of all consumers in mind?
  • What does ‘consumer wellbeing’ mean to you?

You can contribute in several ways. You can have your say on this page by:

  • providing general comments
  • uploading a submission document or documents, or
  • registering your interest in being on our community panel.

You can also apply to join the commission's community sector reference group or attend the cross-sector workshops that will be organised in the coming months. For details on how to participate in these channels, please visit our website.

You could be on our community panel

We need the assistance of 36 Victorians from across the state to help us with our vulnerability strategy.

General comments

Collection notice

As part of making a submission, we need you to provide personal information, such as your name, email address, town of residence and postcode. We may use this information to send you updates about this review. We may also collect personal information when you contact us with a query. Aside from any exceptions in relevant privacy legislation, we will not use or disclose the information you provide for any purpose other than to progress and respond to your query. You have the right to access personal information we hold about you. We may ask you to pay a small fee for this. You can also request that we correct your personal information in our records at no charge by contacting communication@esc.vic.gov.au.

We will publish your submission

Unless you tell us otherwise we will publish your submission the on the Essential Services Commission website. This process may involve publishing your personal information (your name, not your address). We generally do not accept anonymous submissions. If you have concerns about your identity being made public, please consider making your submission confidential rather than submitting it anonymously.

Requesting confidentiality

If you believe your submission contains information that should be confidential or commercially sensitive you must let us know why in writing. If we agree the information is confidential or commercially sensitive you will need to provide us two copies – one complete and one redacted version (preserving page numbers etc by not simply deleting information). If you make your submission public (e.g. by giving it to the media) we will assume confidentiality no longer applies and publish the unredacted version.

Read more information about our submissions policy.

About us

The Essential Services Commission is an independent regulator that promotes the long term interests of Victorian consumers with respect to the price, quality and reliability of essential services. We regulate Victoria’s energy, water and transport sectors, and administer the local government Fair Go Rates system.

Upload submission

Collection notice

As part of making a submission, we need you to provide personal information, such as your name, email address, town of residence and postcode. We may use this information to send you updates about this review. We may also collect personal information when you contact us with a query. Aside from any exceptions in relevant privacy legislation, we will not use or disclose the information you provide for any purpose other than to progress and respond to your query. You have the right to access personal information we hold about you. We may ask you to pay a small fee for this. You can also request that we correct your personal information in our records at no charge by contacting communication@esc.vic.gov.au.

We will publish your submission

Unless you tell us otherwise we will publish your submission the on the Essential Services Commission website. This process may involve publishing your personal information (your name, not your address). We generally do not accept anonymous submissions. If you have concerns about your identity being made public, please consider making your submission confidential rather than submitting it anonymously.

Requesting confidentiality

If you believe your submission contains information that should be confidential or commercially sensitive you must let us know why in writing. If we agree the information is confidential or commercially sensitive you will need to provide us two copies – one complete and one redacted version (preserving page numbers etc by not simply deleting information). If you make your submission public (e.g. by giving it to the media) we will assume confidentiality no longer applies and publish the unredacted version.

Read more information about our submissions policy.

About us

The Essential Services Commission is an independent regulator that promotes the long term interests of Victorian consumers with respect to the price, quality and reliability of essential services. We regulate Victoria’s energy, water and transport sectors, and administer the local government Fair Go Rates system.