Bipartisan support for power proposal welcomed

National Seniors Australia has welcomed weekend media reports from Canberra of bipartisan support for a regulated default market offer for electricity.

The regulated default offer was one of the key recommendations from the recent ACCC report into the electricity market.

National Seniors’ Chief Advocate Ian Henschke said today the advocacy group had called for a default offer in its submission to the ACCC enquiry last year, because of insufficient trust in the standard retail alternatives. The ACCC last month recommended that standing offers be abolished and replaced with a default market offer at or below the price set by the Australian Energy Regulator.

“This is what we called for and it was based on what our members told us,” Mr Henschke said. “Many older Australians are particularly vulnerable because they cannot shop around online. When they call electricity retailers by phone, they’ve been confused and conned by convoluted contracts.

“Some of these contracts have been so dodgy they’ve resulted in big retailers being fined hundreds of thousands of dollars for breaches of consumer law.”

Mr Henschke said consumers were paying too much for electricity, with the ACCC report revealing widespread abuse of market power by larger energy companies.

“The ACCC estimates its recommendations, if adopted, will save the average household between 20 and 25 per cent on their electricity bill, or around $290-$415 a year,” Mr Henschke said.

“The ACCC said the retail electricity market ‘was broken’. We agree.”

Mr Henschke said National Seniors supported the ACCC’s recommendations, including:

  • Abolishing the current retail ‘standing’ offers and replacing them with a new ‘default’ offer consistent across all retailers, set at a price determined by the Australian Energy Regulator (AER).
  • Requiring retailers to reference any discounts to the new ‘default’ offer, making it easier for consumers to compare offers. Conditional discounts, such as pay-on-time discounts, not to be included in any headline discount claim.
  • A mandatory code for comparative websites so offers are based on customer benefit, not commissions paid.

National Seniors is also calling for consumers who want paper bills not to be charged fees.

“The time to implement change is now and whoever is in power must fix the system, which is broken,” Mr Henschke said. “Let’s get on with it, put the politics aside and put the interests of consumers first.”

Ian Henschke is available for interview.

Media contact: Lynda Schekoske (07) 3233 9106 or 0488 047 380.

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