The Essential Services Commission (ESC) has today made its final pricing determinations for the 2018 Water Price Review. The determinations specify the prices that water companies can charge as well as service standards that companies must meet.
The majority of Victorians will see their water bills remain steady or fall slightly over the next five years. This is welcome news considering that water bills have increased over the past decade to pay for important water infrastructure.
‘Households are feeling the pinch from stagnant wage growth and increasing bills for other essential services. Keeping water bills flat–or decreasing in some cases–is very welcome news, particularly for low income and vulnerable Victorians who are struggling to meet basic living costs.’ said Gerard Brody, CEO of Consumer Action Law Centre.
Additionally, many water companies have committed to improving their hardship programs over the next few years so that all Victorians have access to affordable water.
‘Access to water plays a crucial role in people’s lives and is a key determinant in health, well-being and social participation. The increased focus on vulnerable and low-income customers is very positive’ said Mr Brody.
Consumer Action has some concerns with Coliban Water’s proposed introduction of ‘Time of Use’ tariffs and commencing the roll-out of ‘smart’ or ‘digital’ meters without fully articulating how this new technology will benefit customers. Consumer Action is opposed to mandatory Time of Use pricing for residential customers because of the potential adverse impacts it might have, particularly on low income and vulnerable consumers.
Consumer Action commends the ESC for prioritising customers’ experiences and expectations throughout the Review. Many water companies genuinely engaged with customers and Consumer Action is pleased to see that the final determinations confirm what many customers said they expect from their water company: clean, safe water at an affordable price.
‘Victorian water companies are state owned entities providing an essential service. It’s important that they go out and engage with the community, finding out what people actually expect and then delivering on those expectations. But the conversation doesn’t stop there: genuine customer engagement must become embedded in the culture of water businesses. It should be the new normal.’ Mr Brody concluded.
As part of the 2018 Water Review, the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning provided crucial funding for Consumer Action to advocate on behalf of Victoria’s vulnerable water customers.
Consumer Action is available for comment on the 2018 Water Price Review.