Focus on real drivers of energy price rises and consumer protection: ACOSS

4 December 2012

The Australian Council of Social Service has welcomed the Prime Minister’s focus on electricity prices in the lead up to Friday’s COAG meeting, and is calling on all Governments to focus on the real drivers of price rises.

Dr Cassandra Goldie, ACOSS CEO, said this morning, “Consumers have been hurt by rapid price rises over recent years, and it’s pretty clear that our current system isn’t working.” What people want right now is for all Governments to work together to fix the real causes of electricity price rises and strengthen consumer protection.”

“ACOSS strongly supports greater consumer representation in all areas of the energy market. We would be pleased to see a consumer challenge panel entrenched within the Australian Energy Regulator, but we are also keen for the Government to establish a stable, independent national consumer body that ensures that consumer interests are front-and-centre in all energy market processes.

“An effective, well-resourced national energy consumer advocacy body can operate to ensure consumer interests are central to decision making by governments, regulators and energy businesses. The reality is that energy businesses already have a powerful voice in the system – a national consumer advocacy body will contribute to more responsible, effective, sustainable and fair energy markets and ensure that consumers aren’t being short changed, for example by unnecessary spending on poles and wires.

“We look forward to the Prime Minister releasing further details of the plan to allow a proper assessment of its impact on consumers, including low income and vulnerable consumers. We know that low income and vulnerable consumers are particularly impacted by high electricity prices and it’s crucial that electricity reforms provide adequate protections and opportunities for them.

“While time-of-use pricing strategies can lead to cost savings for many consumers, not all consumers are going to be winners. Therefore, it’s important to ensure that low income households are sufficiently protected and are also given every opportunity to participate.

“The introduction of cost-reflective pricing should be accompanied by a comprehensive consumer information and education campaign, funded by governments. Such a campaign will need to target vulnerable consumers.

“We want to see the Commonwealth and state and territory governments work together in this important reform process to improve outcomes for all consumers,” Dr Goldie said.

Media Contact: Fernando de Freitas 0419 626 155

ACOSS submission to senate inquiry into electricity prices