If you’re sick and tired of opening your electricity bill only to find it’s got bigger yet again, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) wants to hear from you.
The consumer watchdog has called for submissions by the end of June from interested parties – including individual customers – on issues including the prices, costs and profits that contribute to electricity bills, and how providers can work better with customers.
It’s part of an inquiry the ACCC is doing into retail electricity supply and prices in Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia, Tasmania and the Australian Capital Territory.
ACCC chairman Rod Sims said one of the inquiry’s key focuses was on finding out what factors pushed the cost of electricity higher, and what could be done about that.
“We will seek information and data from electricity retailers to further break down the costs that make up a retail electricity bill,” Sims said.
“Our inquiry also aims to make findings and recommendations to improve customer outcomes when they are choosing and buying electricity services.”
Sims said the ACCC wanted input from anyone who was interested, from suppliers to customers, and would hold forums around Australia so customers could tell ACCC investigators about their concerns and experiences.
“We will also engage with industry directly and use compulsory information gathering powers as required to access information not publicly available,” he warned.
Australians are paying almost twice as much for electricity as they were just 10 years ago, a Grattan Institute report released in March found.
“Electricity bills are the number one cost concern for Australian households. High gas prices, the shutdown of older coal-fired generators and the shift to renewables are increasing bills everywhere,” the well-respected research body said in a report that slammed the energy suppliers.
“Lower price deals are available, but most consumers find the market so complicated that they have given up trying to find them.”
The institute noticed the high profit margins made by companies in the energy sector.
Energy producers have also been criticised for signing deals to provide gas to overseas customers, causing a shortfall in local gas provision that forced retail power prices higher.
In April, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull promised to force the companies put Aussies first when it came to access to local resources.
“Australians are entitled to have access to the gas they need at prices they can afford,” he said at the time.
He also criticised state governments for blocking gas exploration and fracking – blocks that energy companies have blamed for contributing to gas shortages that have forced up prices for consumers.
Read more: Energy companies ‘robbing Aussies blind’
A month earlier, Turnbull told reporters that an extension to the Snowy Mountains hydroelectric scheme, dubbed Snowy Hydro 2.0, would boost the amount of energy it created by 50 per cent, crating enough extra power to supply 500,000 homes.
“This will ultimately mean cheaper power prices and more money in the pockets of Australians,” he said at the time.
Submissions to the ACCC’s review must be in by June 30, and can be emailed to [email protected].
More information about the public will be published on the ACCC’s website in the next few months.
Will you attend one of these forums to air your grievances over the rising cost of electricity?