Consumer Action response to the release of the Essential Services Commission Victorian Energy Market Report 2016-17

Too many people are doing it tough as energy retailers fail to give their customers a fair price and a fair go at staying connected to essential services.

The Essential Services Commission (ESC) today released the Victorian Energy Market Report 2016-17. The report shows that many Victorians are paying far too much for their energy and are being misled when they try to get a better deal by dodgy discounting practices.  Not only that, people who need the help are being denied assistance they are entitled to when they have difficulty paying.

The ESC reported that 80,000 customers accessed hardship programs in the 2016-17 financial year – this is the highest number since the regulator started collecting data.

Quotes attributable to Gerard Brody, CEO, Consumer Action Law Centre

“For too long, energy retailers have confused people with fake discounts that are late payment penalties in disguise. No Victorian should ever be slugged with an extra $500 fee on a bill because they had to pay a day late to make ends meet.”

“Victoria must move to require retailers to provide a basic service offer to protect people from paying unnecessarily high prices for an essential service.”

“Consumer Action is alarmed that 2,119 customers were denied hardship assistance, a 315% jump. Energy businesses have a social responsibility to ensure everything possible is done to maintain supply to essential services.”

“The report confirms what financial counsellors on the National Debt Helpline hear from callers every day: energy retailers are regularly failing many of their customers by putting them in an impossible financial situation.”

“Energy is essential to health, safety and social cohesion – disconnecting anyone for an inability to pay is unacceptable.”

POLICY CONTACT: Jake Lilley, 03 9670 5088

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