“High billing” top energy issue for Victorians: MEDIA RELEASE

The annual report from Energy and Water Ombudsman (Victoria) (EWOV), released today, shows why Victoria’s politicians need to act to tackle the high energy bills crisis. According to the report, complaints are up 8% in a year, and that for the first time since 2012-2013 “high billing” is the top overall issue. 

Fortunately, there is a solution. A Basic Service Offer (BSO)*, first proposed by the 2017 Independent Review of the Electricity and Gas Retail Markets in Victoria, would ensure no Victorian household pays too much for their energy. The BSO is part of Consumer Action’s State election platform and is a vital reform to help Victorian families tackle rising energy bills.

Victorians are struggling to afford their essential energy services and are going into debt as a result.
EWOV’s report shows the average arrears of residential customers whose complaints were investigated was $2,698, and 473 residential customers contacted EWOV with energy debts over $3,000. This follows:

  • the Australian Energy Market Commission (AEMC) admitting that competition among energy retailers is not delivering ‘expected benefits’ in its annual retail energy competition review report released in June
  • the ACCC’s final report on the energy market in July taking direct aim at misleading and confusing marketing practices that have led to Australian households paying record high prices for electricity—and calling for them to be abolished.

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

“Energy is absolutely essential for the health and well-being of all Victorians. Yet rising costs are seeing some go without heating and cooling when they need it most. Some Victorian households are still being ripped off by retail energy companies. This must stop.”

“EWOV’s annual report tells us that Victorians are so shocked by the size of their bills that they are complaining their meters aren’t working properly. Unfortunately many find out it this isn’t the case and instead the issue is their energy company is failing to deliver a fair and affordable energy plan and appropriate assistance where they are struggling to pay.”

“The Andrews Government rightly agreed to scrutinise the Basic Service Offer proposal earlier this year. This EWOV report should be a further wake-up call that energy retailers can’t be trusted to fix these issues on their own.”

“Victorians who want to stop the rip offs with a no-nonsense, independently-set, guaranteed fair price for energy can sign up to send a quick email to their local MP here https://consumeraction.org.au/energybills/

MEDIA CONTACT: Mick Bellairs, media@consumeraction.org.au

Notes: 

In January 2018, 66.5% of Victorians said they would either support, or strongly support a “Basic Service Offer” (BSO). The BSO would require electricity retailers to offer Victorians a fair price guarantee set by the Essential Services Commission, based on the reasonable cost of running an electricity retail business. Read more at: www.consumeraction.org.au/bso

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