ENERGY retailers will be forced to inform their customers if there is a better deal available when new legislation, introduced in the ACT Legislative Assembly today (April 20), comes into effect later this year, says ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr.
“These new rules will require energy retailers to tell you about a ‘reference price’ – a common benchmark that your deal will be compared against – and to tell you if a better deal is available, without you having to ask,” he says.
“We know the difference between a standing offer price and the best market price can be up to $400 a year. We also know that around 40 per cent of Canberrans are on standing offer contracts.”
The changes, which were recommended by the ACT’s Independent Competition and Regulatory Commission, is part of the Parliamentary and Governing Agreement between Labor and the Greens.
The announcement has been welcomed by the ACT Council of Social Service (ACTCOSS).
Fore most people, CEO Dr Emma Campbell says comparing electricity offers is a difficult, confusing and a time-consuming process.
“ACTCOSS welcomes the announcement of legislation that will increase transparency on the part of electricity retailers and make it easier for consumers to compare electricity offers and determine if they are getting the best deal,” she says.
“These new rules will benefit all Canberrans but particularly those facing income stress or other engagement barriers, such as time restrictions due to caring, digital exclusion, limited English language proficiency and other complex life circumstances.
“Energy justice requires that low-income and vulnerable consumers have ready access to electricity at a manageable cost. People should not be forced to spend many hours navigating opaque information to access an essential service at a fair price.”
While ACTCOSS welcomes the steps currently being taken, it is keen to ensure that they do not result in a perverse outcome for consumers.
“We want to ensure that costs of compliance with these measures are not passed from electricity retailers to customers in a way that negates any customer benefit derived,” Dr Campbell says.
“It is important to note that these rules alone are not enough to ensure energy justice in the ACT.
“ACTCOSS calls on the ACT government to ensure the utilities concession is adequate; to provide continued funding of the Utilities Hardship Fund; to permanently extend eligibility for utilities concession to asylum seekers who are ACT Services Access Card holders; and to explore options to support the broader cohort of vulnerable energy consumers in the ACT who are not currently eligible for the utilities concession and/or the Utilities Hardship Fund.”