Energy retailers to work with Victorian government

Energy retailers need to make it easier to find a better electricity deal by publishing their best offer on bills as part of new changes announced this week by the Victorian Government.

The Essential Services Commission (ESC) will also monitor and regularly report on the competitiveness of Victoria’s energy retail market.

The changes are part of the Labor Government’s interim response to the independent, bipartisan Thwaites Review into Victoria’s electricity and gas retail markets.

The government has accepted nine of the report’s 11 recommendations and will undertake further analysis on the other two – introducing a no-frills basic service offer and abolishing standing offers.

As a result of the report, the state’s three largest energy retailers are providing rebates of up $720 to more than 280,000 Victorians customers on costly standing offers.

“These changes will boost transparency and support hard working families and businesses,” state Energy Minister Lily D’Ambrosio said.

“We know Victorian families are struggling with increasing energy prices – that’s why we’re helping more Victorians switch to a better offer.”

Australian Energy Council general manager corporate affairs Sarah McNamara said the industry looked forward to the opportunity to consult with the government on the Thwaites report recommendations and would use the opportunity to highlight that reregulation of the retail electricity market would only make consumers worse off.

“The remaining two recommendations were the most contentious and radical recommendations of the Thwaites Review which would, if introduced, kill competition and push out smaller retailers,” Ms McNamara said.

“According to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) moves to reregulate electricity prices would see many households paying more and could lead to less innovation for consumers.

“Thorough consideration and consultation on a reference price is also essential to avoid significant and unintended consequences.

“The nine accepted recommendations have many positive aspects, particularly around delivering clearer messaging to customers on deals available and supporting vulnerable customers.”

The ESC will consult with industry and consumer advocates on the methodology for a reference price and will report back later this year.

This reference price will assist the commission in monitoring the market.

The reference price will be used by the ESC to assess whether Victorians are receiving a fair go when it comes to energy prices.

Work is already underway on a number of the report’s recommendations including protections for low income and vulnerable customers, and a new brokerage service.

The government will partner with a community organisation to design, deliver and evaluate the outcomes of an Energy Brokerage Service Pilot – which aims to reach up to 10,000 vulnerable consumers.

The government’s final response to the review will be released later this year.