Retail energy market update
22 January 2015
The AER has published retail performance data for Quarter 1, 2014-15.
Summary of data:
- Despite an increase in switching in the June 2014 quarter, the number of customers switching to another energy retailer decreased overall in the 12 months to September 2014. This increase was largely explained by AGL’s acquisition of Australian Power & Gas. Switching rates in Victoria remain the highest in Australia.
- Residential customer complaints were greatest in South Australia and New South Wales, where around 3.5 per cent and 2.6 per cent of customers respectively made complaints to their energy retailers. In Tasmania and the ACT less than 1 per cent of residential customers made complaints to their retailer.
- The number of residential customers repaying an energy debt (without the assistance of a hardship program) decreased in all jurisdictions.
- Average debt levels were largely consistent with the September 2013 quarter, and in most cases decreased from the June 2014 quarter. Average residential electricity debt levels were $552 in New South Wales, $650 in South Australia, $642 in Tasmania and $779 in the ACT. Average residential gas debt levels were $281 in South Australia, $395 in New South Wales and $526 in the ACT.
- The number of customers using payment plans to pay energy bills is relatively unchanged in each jurisdiction over recent quarters. They are most common in South Australia, where they are used by 3.4 per cent of electricity customers and 2.5 per cent of gas customers. The number decreased in Tasmania as more of Aurora’s customers fully repaid outstanding debts.
- Where the number of customers on payment plans is relatively stable, the number of customers on hardship programs to repay their energy debt further increased. In the September quarter the number of customers repaying electricity and gas debt on hardship programs in New South Wales increased by around 20 per cent, to 0.75 and 0.39 per cent of customers respectively. As with payment plans, hardship programs are most commonly used in South Australia, with 1.3 per cent of electricity customers and 0.8 per cent of gas customers requiring this additional assistance to repay debt.
- Of the customers that exited hardship programs in the September quarter, 33 per cent were successful in repaying their debt and returning to normal payment arrangements. This is an improvement when compared with 2013-14, where only 20 per cent were successful.
- The number of residential customers disconnected for non-payment of electricity and gas in each jurisdiction was reasonably consistent with recent quarters. Notably, disconnections of electricity customers in New South Wales and gas customers in South Australia have increased relative to recent quarters.