26 September 2023

IPART finds energy customers overcharged

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Electricity and gas customers on standard energy plans are paying too much, according to a draft report form the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal (IPART).

Tribunal Member of IPART, Sandra Gamble said the Tribunal’s Monitoring the NSW electricity retail market 2020-21 Draft Report examined the performance and competitiveness of the retail energy market in NSW in 2020-21.

“A typical customer could save more than $300 a year for electricity and $350 for gas by moving from their retailers’ standing offer to a better plan,” Ms Gamble said.

“Customers should compare offers on the Government run EnergyMadeEasy website to get a better deal,” she said.

“While standing offer prices have reduced significantly since 2019-20, customers can still save around 20 per cent off these prices by shopping around for a ‘market offer’.”

Ms Gamble said the Draft Report found that lockdown restrictions resulted in an increase in residential energy bills, in line with the increased amount of time people spent at home.

However, the Tribunal Member said the underlying retail electricity prices fell to their lowest levels since 2015-16.

“The latest price reductions have been brought about by falling wholesale prices with the influx of rooftop solar systems,” she said.

“Over the past few years, solar has benefitted all customers by bringing down prices in the market.”

Ms Gamble said 16 new electricity retailers entered the market in the past two years, which should improve products and services for consumers through increased competition.

She said the impact of COVID-19 had generally been managed well by retailers and regulators, with energy consumers reporting increased levels of satisfaction and a fall in the number of complaints to the Energy Ombudsman.

“Over 2020-21, data reported to the AER (Australian Energy Regulator) shows some increase in levels of residential electricity debt on hardship programs,” Ms Gamble said.

“However, customers have not been disconnected at higher rates, complaints have fallen and retailers have not left the market.”

Ms Gamble said this was in part due to the AER’s statement of expectations which placed a moratorium on disconnections while stay-at-home orders were in force.

She said IPART was calling for feedback on the Draft Report until 5 November.

IPART’s 63-page Draft Report can be accessed at this PS News link and the Commonwealth EnergyMadeEasy website at this link.

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