Water prices a welcome relief but hardship concerns remain
Consumer Action has welcomed the price proposals from Victorian water businesses for the period 2023-28 in a submission to the Essential Services Commissions Initial Feedback: 2023-28 Water Price Review.
“At this time of cost-of-living crisis, we’re very pleased to see falling or steady prices proposed by most water businesses as well as investment in hardship programs supporting people struggling to pay their bills,” said Alex Macafee, Consumer Action Policy Officer.
“Water may be one of the smaller household bills but when many in the community are doing it tough, it’s important and helpful that prices are generally scheduled to stay the same or go down,” she said.
Despite the positives in the Review, Ms Macafee said there are a number of areas the Essential Services Commission should consider when reviewing the proposals.
“A recent report from the Consumer Policy Research Centre found that 22% of Victorian water customers are not receiving their concession entitlement despite obligations in the Water Customer Service Code for water businesses to provide information and assist customers with respect to concessions.
“We want to see more from water businesses regarding what is currently working to support customers on hardship programs and what needs to work better, including support in accessing concessions,” she said.
Ms Macafee said other areas of concern include:
- Where price increases are proposed, make sure the cost is spread over the entire 5 years to avoid ‘bill shock’ linked to a large jump in cost in one year
- Ensure that any changes to tariffs won’t impact unfairly on renters or people in financial hardship
- Review the quality of customer engagement by businesses to ensure that the price proposals have been developed in collaboration with their customers – it’s important that people have been empowered to influence decisions on the price they pay for the service they receive. While some businesses are doing this well, others have room for improvement.