Consumer Action Law Centre has written to the Chairs and Managing Directors of the Victorian water corporations about the impending 2023 Water Price Review, urging them to prioritise affordability so that all Victorians can continue to exercise their fundamental right to water.
“All Victorians have the right to enjoy access to safe, reliable water supplies, so that they can live healthy and dignified lives,” said Gerard Brody, CEO Consumer Action.
“In the aftermath of the COVID pandemic, too many of the Victorians we speak to are struggling to pay their utility bills, and while water prices have remained steady or come down slightly over recent years, there remain people in the community facing difficulty paying their bills.
“Any increases in water prices will exacerbate financial hardship for these Victorians, increasing the challenge they face in meeting the cost of their day-to-day expenses,” Mr Brody said.
Victoria’s water businesses have been generally proactive in engaging with their customer base and the community as part of the development of pricing plans. However, Mr Brody said there are some fundamentals that water businesses must adopt.
Water companies should maintain and expand assistance for people experiencing vulnerability and hardship so that people having difficulty paying their bills receive they support they need. Businesses should also remove or address any cross-subsidies that disadvantage residential consumers.
“It’s only reasonable that industry users should be paying the full cost of their water use and not be subsidised by households, and any deviation from this must be made explicit, and justified, in businesses’ price submissions,” Mr Brody said.
Significant investments, such as the roll-out of digital metering, must proceed only where the benefits to consumers have been robustly demonstrated. Furthermore, demand forecasts should be based on recent experience – the pandemic has meant that population growth has slowed throughout much of Victoria, and planned capital expenditure needs to be reconsidered.
“Where price rises are unavoidable, any cost increase must be accompanied by a strategy to avoid bill shock. Steep price rises, especially over a short time, will have negative impacts on Victorians on low incomes.” Mr Brody said.
A copy of the Open Letter can be found here
- Mark Pearce, Media and Communications Advisor
- Tel: 0413 299 567 E:Mark@consumeraction.org.au