Better Bills Guideline

Segment: 
Category: 
Retail pricing information
Status: 
Date initiated: 
18 March 2021
Contact: 
General enquiries - Consumer policy, General enquiries - Consumer policy Consumerpolicy@aer.gov.au
AER reference: 
AER202212

Overview

On 18 March 2021, the Australian Energy Market Commission (AEMC) made a final rule requiring us to publish a Better Bills Guideline by 1 April 2022. The purpose of the Guideline is to provide guidance to retailers on preparing and issuing bills that make it easy for residential and small customers to understand billing information.

The Guideline development process will be informed by a range of sources, including:

  • stakeholder submissions to the AEMC rule determination process
  • input and feedback received through consultation processes, including the ongoing Better Bills Guideline Working Group, public consultation through the ACCC Consultation Hub, and submissions and feedback on the draft Guideline when released
  • existing Australian and international literature and research
  • new consumer and behavioural research commissioned by the AER.

Background

On 16 April 2020, the Honourable Angus Taylor MP, Minister for Energy and Emissions Reduction, submitted a rule change request to amend the National Energy Retail Rules on behalf of the Australian Government.

The rule change request sought to simplify energy bills in order to ensure clear and accessible information for all customers and to help reduce market complexity while strengthening the ability of customers to make informed decisions. The Minister noted this would make it easier for consumers to:

  • pay their energy bills
  • ensure their bill conforms to their contract
  • query their bill
  • understand their usage
  • navigate the retail market to seek the best offer.

In response to the rule change request, the AEMC made a more preferable rule, adopting many elements of the initial rule change request. The final rule requires the AER to develop, and retailers to comply with, a mandatory billing guideline setting out how retailers must prepare and issue bills to residential and small business customers.

    The development of the Guideline aligns with the AER Strategic Plan 2020–2025 commitment to improve consumer outcomes while reducing costs to serve, by boosting consumer and behavioural insights and applying them across our initiatives. In this case, we are working with the Behavioural Economics Team of the Australian Government (BETA) as part of a broader strategic partnership.

    Progress to date

    • March - April 2021: BETA conducted a review of existing research and proposed a research plan to fill identified knowledge gaps.
    • May 2021: We sought feedback on the proposed research plan from targeted industry and consumer stakeholders.
    • June - July 2021: Online surveys were conducted by BETA, and focus groups were conducted by Hall & Partners and the Ethnic Communities Council of NSW.
    • July 2021: The Better Bills Guideline Working Group was established.
    • September 2021: Interim research reports released.
      • BETA’s Interim Report.  
      • Reports on focus groups conducted by Hall & Partners and the Ethnic Communities Council of NSW are available below.
    • September 2021: Stakeholder consultation on Better Bills Guideline development issues. Submissions can be viewed here.

    • October 2021: BETA’s Final Research Report Improving Energy Bills was released.