The Australian Energy Regulator has published its 2nd annual report on retail market performance which provides a detailed picture of key issues in the ACT retail energy market. The report also includes information on energy affordability.
The report includes information on the performance of retailers in a range of areas, including the number of customers in energy bill debt, debt levels, the number of disconnections, as well as information on the number of customers who are in retailer hardship programs. Information on retailers’ customer service levels, including complaint rates, is also provided.
The National Energy Retail Law commenced in ACT in July 2012.
AER Board member Jim Cox said the report sheds light on key energy issues facing many ACT households, including that:
- approx. 5000 residential customers (3.1 per cent) in the ACT had energy bill debt with their retailer,
- average electricity bill debt was $825 in 2013-14,
- approx. 7 000 residential gas customers (6.4 per cent) had a gas bill debt with their retailer,
- average gas bill debt was $551 in 2013-14,
- the number of electricity customers on payment plans to repay a debt was 571 (0.36 per cent). A further 679 (0.43 per cent) received assistance under retailer hardship programs, and
- the number of gas customers on payment plans to repay a debt was 300 (0.26 per cent). A further 473 (0.42 per cent) received assistance under retailer hardship programs.
“The numbers of customers in the ACT with electricity bill debt is low compared to the national average, however, the number of customers that have incurred a gas bill debt is comparatively high,” Mr Cox said.
“Help under a retailer’s hardship program can include tailored payment plans based on what a customer can afford to pay. As long as a customer is making the agreed repayments, they shouldn’t be disconnected”
“If you experience financial difficulties, it is important to speak to your energy retailer early, to avoid the of risk disconnection.”
Retailer hardship programs are mandatory and have to be approved by the AER.
“Our aim for this report is to highlight examples of good practice, as well as identifying areas of concerns.” Mr Cox said
“It is important that consumers are informed about the options that are available to them”.
Mr Cox said the report is a timely reminder about the potential benefits of shopping around.
“There can be big differences between the most expensive and least expensive energy offer, even in the same area, so it is definitely worth looking to see if there is a better energy offer available.”
“Our Energy Made Easy website (www.energymadeeasy.gov.au) is a handy resource to help consumers compare the electricity deals in their area. It’s a free government website, so you can trust it’s not influenced by commercial interests,” Mr Cox said.
Mr Cox said dissatisfied customers should feel confident to look at other options.