ACCC to take hard line on new rules for electricity retailers

Graph on a printed utilities energy bill
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With the enforcement of a default market offer coming into effect today, the ACCC says it will be making sure electricity retailers are abiding by the new laws.

It says it will be doing so by both limiting standing offer electricity prices and imposing new advertising rules on electricity providers under the new Electricity Retail Code. This code comes into force today in South East Queensland, New South Wales and South Australia.

From today, electricity retailers have various obligations under the code including:

  • Capping their standing offers in line with the AER’s independently set default price and moving clients on current standing offers onto the lower price
  • Advertising the prices and conditions on their market offers by reference to the default price so retail offers can be clearly compared.

From July 1, prices will decrease for many customers. The Australian Energy Regulator (AER) has set maximum allowable prices for these standing offers and the ACCC will ensure that retailers are not charging more than they are allowed.

These standing offer prices might not be the cheapest offers in the market, but act as a price constraint for customers who are not on a market offer or for customers whose market offers have expired and who have not yet selected a new offer.

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“We will ensure that the standing offer prices come down for all customers on those offers, which includes many who cannot access market offers,” ACCC Chair Rod Sims said.

“Retailers should not seek to recoup lost profits from the new cap on standing offer prices from other customers currently on cheaper market offers.”

From today, energy advertising and offers must also show electricity prices compared to a common reference price and transparently disclose all conditions attached to the offers.

Past industry practices have made it confusing for consumers to shop around, which is why these new rules were put in place.

Customers looking to compare offers or switch are being encouraged to visit the AER’s independent price comparator website, Energy Made Easy.

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“Retailers are well aware of these new rules, and they should have no doubt that we will enforce the rules and we will seek penalties if they do not comply,” Mr Sims said.

“We will also continue to enforce the Australian Consumer Law against any retailer engaging in misleading or deceptive conduct or making false or misleading claims or statements.”

As part of the ACCC’s electricity market monitoring inquiry, the ACCC will also be reporting on what happens to the prices and availability of cheaper market offers currently on offer, and will publish its next report by September.

“We see no reason for these current cheaper market offers to be affected if there is truly competition in the retail electricity market,” Mr Sims said.

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