'Getting to fair' was released on 12 August 2021.
Our 'Getting to fair' strategy gives us a roadmap to addressing consumer’s experience of vulnerability and breaking down the barriers they can face.
The aim of our ‘getting to fair’ strategy is to create fairer more equitable access for all Victorians, regardless of which of our regulated services they use.
All customers will benefit from this approach, but particularly people who may be struggling with changes in circumstances or who are enduring difficulties. During difficult times, the inability to access essential services, like clean drinking water, affordable lighting and heating, sustainable council rates, should not be a cause for further difficulty.
Read the strategy
What the strategy means for consumers
‘Getting to fair’ outlines the actions we will take to ensure all consumers, regardless of circumstances, have equitable access to the essential services we regulate and administer.
The proposed changes in how we go about our work will take place over time.
In the short-term, we will be ensuring that the voices of consumers are reflected in our work. Over time, consumers will see a more consistent approach to tackling the problems that cause these barriers and we’ll be better prepared to respond during times of need.
‘Getting to fair’ is built around three key objectives: working with consumers, working with regulated businesses and working on ourselves.
- Objective 1: Consumers experiencing vulnerability are supported to better understand and exercise their rights and can influence our work.
- Objective 2: Services we regulate are more responsive, inclusive and accessible.
- Objective 3: The commission is more responsive, inclusive and accessible as an organisation.
Each objective is supported by a series of actions to be further developed and implemented over the next three years. Detailed information about how we will deliver the strategy can be found on our website.
How we developed the strategy
To help us understand the experience of vulnerability in recent times we :
- interviewed community workers and volunteers on consumer experiences in the energy market (conducted by the Consumer Policy Research Centre)
- collected data on the systemic factors affecting consumers in the current environment (PDF, 1.38MB) (compiled by ACIL Allen).
Our ongoing engagement is intended to build strong relationships with stakeholders and establish trust and to provide assurance that we will act appropriately on issues related to consumer vulnerability.
- Round table meetings every two months with community agencies on the social and economic effects of the coronavirus pandemic.
- A reference group made up consumer and community representative organisations to test our ideas and provide advice at each stage of the process.
- A deliberative panel of 37 people representative of our community to provide recommendation of what areas we should be focusing on, as well as to provide a definition of ‘consumer wellbeing’ to help guide us.
- Report on the deliberative engagement process with Victorian consumers (PDF, 1.17 MB)
- Report on the deliberative engagement process to inform draft strategy (word version) (DOCX, 2.69 MB)
- Discussions with industry in the form of roundtables and cross-sector workshops to share insights and examples of better practice approaches to consumer support.
- We also undertook a range of activities with staff at the commission to ensure all staff understand the problems the strategy is seeking to address, and in formulating options that to help achieve meaningful change.
Feedback on the draft strategy
We released our draft strategy for public feedback on 6 May 2021. We received 25 submissions, from the energy sector, water sector and community sector, and one comment through our feedback form.
Overall, submissions were supportive of the need to develop a strategy addressing consumer vulnerability. Submissions covered topics including:
- The definition of vulnerability and appropriate terminology.
- Partnerships and relationships with relevant government departments, industry, community sector and other regulators.
- The consultation process to develop the draft strategy.
- Accessible communication.
- Existing assistance and best practice approaches.
- The measures of success for the initiatives.
- Feedback on specific initiatives, including the review of the Payment Difficulty Framework.
Submissions to the draft strategy can be found on our website.
Our strategy will be supported by 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.
Read our public engagement summary report
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.