For Victorians we speak to at Consumer Action their concerns are often about immediate affordability of energy bills, including gas. These bills are unaffordable for many reasons and can include, but are not limited to, losing a job, health challenges such as serious illness or injury, or taking on caring duties.
A significant number of people we speak to struggle with ongoing energy hardship and face difficulty paying for energy bills, among other day-to-day costs. Individuals who live in poor quality housing are negatively impacted by higher running costs for appliances – for example, uninsulated or poorly insulated housing will lose heat rapidly and require higher energy use for heating appliances. Many people are stuck with inefficient heating and/or cooling appliances either because they cannot afford the up-front cost to replace or because they don’t have a choice (i.e. renters).
In additional to affordability issues, the gas market is extremely complex. Gas contracts are far more confusing to navigate because they often vary greatly in structure, with blocks and seasonal variations changing at different points at each retailer’s discretion. This makes it extremely hard to engage in the competitive market, compare offers and find the best deal.
Maintaining the affordability of gas during a period of transition is crucial and we encourage the Department to implement policy measures that ensure gas remains affordable particularly for low income and vulnerable households. Consumer Action has long supported the recommendation of the Independent Review of the Electricity & Gas Retail Markets in Victoria (known as the Thwaites Review) to establish a guaranteed, fair price for energy and have been involved in the development and setting of the default offer for electricity.
To ensure prices remain affordable as Victoria transitions away from traditional gas we recommend the Victorian Government implement a default offer for gas. Doing so would assist households who are unable to engage with the gas retail market and bring gas pricing regulation into line with the VDO for electricity. In addition, it would improve understanding of consumer protections by them being consistent across fuels.
Read the full submission (PFD)210727 Submission – Victoria’s Gas Substitution Roadmap