9 August 2012
CHOICE and the Australian Council of Social Service (ACOSS) have called on all jurisdictions to urgently embrace improved protections and information for Australian energy consumers.
The call follows the decisions of a some states to delay implementation of the National Energy Customer Framework (NECF), which was due begin from 1 July this year following more than six years of negotiation, compromise and many millions of dollars.
“Australian electricity consumers are facing unprecedented price increases, aggressive marketing and product complexity, and we urgently need reforms to help inform and protect consumers in this challenging market,” said Matt Levey, CHOICE head of campaigns.
“Instead, we have seen the four largest states in the market walk away from the national customer framework, leading to the waste of significant expenses incurred by regulators, retailers, advocates, Ombudsman and others,” Mr Levey said.
“This appears to be a triumph of politics over national reform, leaving the real potential for disadvantage and confusion for consumers,” said Dr Cassandra Goldie, CEO of ACOSS.
Only the ACT and Tasmania adopted the NECF on its 1 July start date, meaning consumers outside these jurisdictions are denied:
– Use of the new unbiased Energymadeeasy.gov.au comparison website run by the Australian Energy Regulator;
– Access to standardised fact sheets, helping consumers compare complex energy products;
– Comprehensive, consistent and properly enforced consumer protections; and
– The cost-savings of a nationally consistent regulatory framework.
“It is farcical that at a time when consumers are being confronted with increasingly loud and complex energy marketing, what would have been an excellent national comparison website is more like a shell,” says Mr Levey said.
“The increased costs to industry from regulatory inconsistency, and from significant compliance costs ahead of 1 July, will inevitably result in higher costs for Australian energy consumers,” Dr Goldie said.
“The situation is made worse by the lack of clarity from the various jurisdictions about when they will implement the NECF and provide certainty to consumers and industry.
“For example, NSW has pointed to their initiative to put mandatory warnings about the carbon tax on customer bills as their reason to walk away from this comprehensive suite of consumer reforms,” said Dr Goldie.
“We all support better information about price increases on consumer bills, but junking a six year national framework of consumer protections to bombard households with information about the carbon tax is not a great outcome,” Mr Levey said.
Matt Levey, CHOICE head of campaigns – 0488 214 066
Fernando de Freitas, ACOSS Media – 0419 626 155