Energy prices hitting families hard and bigger price reductions urgently needed say consumer advocates

Consumer Action Law Centre CEO Stephanie Tonkin has welcomed draft decision by the Essential Services Commission (ESC) that will see a modest decrease in energy bills this year, but as more families are hit by cost-of-living rises, the struggle to pay their bills is leading to worrying increases in energy debt.

“Any reduction is welcome in comparison to last year’s 25% spike, but what is absolutely essential is that there needs to be more focus on ensuring retailers are consistently providing assistance to people struggling with their energy bills,” said Ms Tonkin.

“Every day on our helplines we hear from people who have to choose between putting food on the table and keeping their lights on, and they are racking up debt they may never pay off.”

Ms Tonkin said that regulators have a fundamental responsibility to ensure that the energy system is working for the long-term interests of consumers.

“Price spikes over the last few years clearly demonstrate that the current market is not providing the stability consumers need for something as essential as energy, and this is why further regulatory measures are needed to protect consumers paying for market volatility,” Ms Tonkin said.

Priority must be given to supporting people to access better offers, and consistent assistance from their retailer if they’re struggling with their energy bills she added.

The CEO of the Victorian Councill of Social Services (VCOSS) Juanita Pope said that any reduction in power prices is welcome, but this decision won’t achieve much.

“This proposed price drop doesn’t even go a quarter of the way to unwinding last year’s price hike of 25% and at best, it maintains the status quo.” Ms Pope said.

In dollar terms, the ESC says this will reduce the average power bill by $112. But let’s not forget last year’s decision increased bills by $352.

“Too many Victorians will remain trapped in poverty; unable to pay their energy bills or forced to make heartbreaking decisions to find the money required.

“It shouldn’t be this hard to afford an essential service. This is no time for business as usual.”

Ms Pope said the VDO is meant to be a safeguard and meant to protect people from paying too much.

“Instead, without a dramatic decrease in the baseline price, the VDO will trap even more Victorians in poverty.”


REPORT: At the front line of the cost-of-living crisis

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