Older consumers need help with power prices

The ACCC’s preliminary report on electricity prices has highlighted the failings of the national market with consumers having little opportunity to reduce their bills, according to National Seniors Australia.


National Seniors’ Chief Advocate Ian Henschke said the ACCC’s finding that the behaviour of retailers was “complex, confusing and potentially designed to circumvent legislation” would come as no surprise to older consumers.


The ACCC report, released today, showed that on average 70 percent of household electricity bills were made up of network and wholesale costs.


“The ACCC says that electricity network operators have over-invested in poles and wires,” Mr Henschke said. “These investment decisions are locked in and will burden consumers for decades to come.


“At the same time, we are worried that even the ACCC is putting too much emphasis on retail competition and the ability of consumers to drive down prices.


“Older consumers should not have to carry the burden of negotiating cheaper prices for what is an essential service.”


Mr Henschke said the ACCC report underlined the need for a government ‘standing offer’ as a default electricity price, which National Seniors had previously called for, especially for older consumers.


“Given the behaviour of retailers has found to be complex and confusing, we question whether consumer switching is ever going to have any material impact on prices,” Mr Henschke said.


“So it is essential at the government take up the challenge and provide a basic standing offer to ensure at least older consumers can purchase electricity at an affordable price.


“As well, we agree with the ACCC that state and territory governments around Australia should review concessions.


“Older consumers should have access to the same level of concessions for essential services regardless of where they live.”


See the ACCC Retail Electricity Pricing Inquiry: Preliminary Report at https://www.accc.gov.au/publications/accc-retail-electricity-pricing-inquiry-preliminary-report


16 October 2017.