The Australian Council of Social Service has welcomed the recommendations of the Senate Select Committee on Electricity Prices and strongly supports the Committee’s recommendation to form a new national consumer advocacy body to represent and support consumers.
ACOSS CEO Dr Cassandra Goldie said, “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.”
“Working closely with existing advocacy and community agencies to leverage existing skills, knowledge and experience, a new body focused on national key priorities can contribute to more responsible, effective, sustainable and fair energy markets,” Dr Goldie said.
“A national advocacy body would provide the technical expertise needed to make sure consumers aren’t being short changed by unnecessary spending on poles and wires.
“ACOSS and other consumer bodies have developed a business plan for an advocacy body which will be considered by COAG in December. We are calling on the Commonwealth and State and Territory Governments to support this initiative, and give consumers a greater voice in regulatory processes.
“We are pleased that the Committee has recommended that time-of-use pricing be gradually phased in with smaller consumers given the option to opt-in if it is beneficial for them. Many low income consumers have a limited capacity to respond to price signals. They can be limited in their ability to exercise choice in how they use energy or invest in energy efficiency improvements.
“While time-of-use pricing strategies can lead to cost savings for many consumers, not all consumers are going to be winners, and it’s important to ensure that low income consumers are adequately protected.
“ACOSS also supports the recommendation that the introduction of cost-reflective pricing be accompanied by a comprehensive consumer information and education campaign, funded by governments. Such a campaign will need to target vulnerable consumers.
“The National Energy Customer Framework was due to be introduced in July 2012, and is intended to provide a set of consumer protection measures. What’s needed now is for all States and Territories to come on board and implement the Framework immediately, but also for the framework to be updated to cover smart meters and time of use pricing,” Dr Goldie concluded.
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