The ACT Council of Social Service (ACTCOSS) has today welcomed the announcement by ACT Chief Minister, Andrew Barr MLA, and Minister for Water, Energy and Emissions, Shane Rattenbury MLA, of legislation requiring ACT electricity retailers to use a common reference price and to inform their customers if a better deal is available.
Dr Emma Campbell, ACTCOSS CEO, said: “For most people, comparing electricity offers is a difficult, confusing, and 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.
“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.
“ACTCOSS is pleased to see our advocacy reflected in today’s announcement. ACTCOSS has made submissions to the Independent Competition and Regulatory Commission (ICRC) and directly to the ACT Government advocating for measures to improve the transparency and comparability of electricity prices in the ACT.
“While we welcome the steps currently being taken, ACTCOSS 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.
“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.
“ACTCOSS welcomes changes that will increase the accountability and responsibility of electricity retailers, and provide consumers with straightforward, easy-to-action information,” Dr Campbell concluded.