Energy retailers to contact two million customers

Australia’s electricity retailers will contact up to two million customers to offer better energy deals by December, following a second meeting with the Prime Minister today.

At the first meeting three weeks ago, retailers committed to ensure that one million families on expired discount offers are contacted and directed to the best electricity plan for them.

At today’s meeting, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull told them there is still more to be done, adding another million customers who are on expensive ‘standing offers’ to the list.

“It troubles us greatly. It’s very concerning that in addition to those Australians that are on expired plans, there are up to a million households, possibly a lot more, still on standing offers which are often, as you know, the most expensive proposition for a customer,” he told the meeting.

“We want you to write to them as well and explain to them that they could potentially save hundreds of dollars by switching to a cheaper rate.

“As you know, the gap between the best and worst offers can range from $900 to $1500 depending on the household and even within market offers, the gap between the best and the median offers is up to $400.

“Ensuring that no Australian is paying more for electricity than they need to – in other words, that your customers are getting the best deal you can offer them – is absolutely critical.”

Australian Energy Council chief executive Matthew Warren said today’s meeting was constructive.

“Energy is a consumer good like insurance or mobile phones and it pays to engage with the market and shop around,” Mr Warren said.

“We discussed a range of initiatives to help customers engage and get better clarity about how different deals compare.

“We agree it’s important for retailers to assist customers to find the best deal, especially at a time when the cost of electricity is high.

“The underlying problem remains though – we need policy certainty and new investment in generation in order to bring down energy costs in the long term.”

Origin CEO Frank Calabria also reiterated the need for a clean energy target to ease power price pressures for Australians.

“Customers deserve a fair deal on energy, and the onus is on all retailers to simplify communication and make sure offers can be easily compared,” Mr Calabria said.

“We must also continue to protect people in financial hardship.

“Australians rightly expect that we will do something about power prices on their behalf.

“We support the Prime Minister’s plan to bring power prices down, which needs to happen in two parts – action by retailers, and a whole of industry and government approach to solving energy policy.”

Mr Calabria said the country urgently needs a clean energy target to guide the necessary investment in new energy supply.

“We encourage the government to find a way through on energy policy,” he said.

“It is the most critical action we can take to deliver all Australians genuine and lasting relief on electricity prices.”

The PM also secured a commitment from the retailers to make available to customers their consumption and payment information, working with the Australian Energy Regulator on a QR code, or equivalent, on their bill that they can scan using a smartphone and instantly compare offers from other retailers.