Call for improved power retailing

QCA LogoThe Queensland Consumers Association is calling on energy retailers, politicians and regulators to place the retail market at the centre of thinking about the transformation of the energy system.

This is a key conclusion from a national survey* of 2300 consumers just released by Energy Consumers Australia (ECA).

The survey revealed that:

  • consumers rank the value for money of their electricity services behind gas and all other utility services, including banking, mobile phones and internet services
  • while some consumers are taking advantage of competition to get better value for money, the majority are not shopping around and switching to get a better deal.
  • consumers who are actively engaging in the market are not reporting higher levels of satisfaction with value for money than those who are not.

Association spokesperson, Ian Jarratt says the survey results confirm its long standing position that in south east Queensland (SEQ,) where there is full competition between electricity retailers and no regulated prices, the market is not working in the interests of far too many consumers.

The Association says there are many reason for this including difficulties consumers face making well-informed choices between contracts/plans and retailers.

The difficulties are many and varied, including marketing which focuses on percentage discounts off different base prices rather than the likely actual cost of the contract/plan to the consumer.

Another difficulty is that most discounts are only obtained if the consumer complies with conditions, including electronic billing, direct debit payments and on time payment, which many consumers are unable to fully comply with.

The Association is particularly concerned that many consumers who pay a bill late can cop the double whammy of loss of most or all of the discount and a late payment fee.

The Association is again calling on power retailers to justify to the community the discounts lost and fees charged for late payment.

The Association also says that the results of the ECA survey highlight the need for the Queensland Competition Authority (QCA) to fully monitor and report on the effectiveness of the retail power market in SEQ since the deregulation of power prices on 1 July 2016.

QCA’s market monitoring should go beyond just reporting on offers available, etc. It needs to provide new information about, and insights into, what consumers are experiencing and the outcomes actually being achieved by various types of consumers.

* Available at http://www.energyconsumersaustralia.com.au/research/energy-consumer-sentiment-survey-findings-december-2016

This article has been republished from a Queensland Consumers Association media release on the 9th February 2017

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