Energy Affordability Package: devil’s in the detail

When the NSW Government announced that electricity retailers would have to place rebate recipients on the best value plan, CPSA thought it was too good to be true.

The initial media release stated there would be "penalties for retailers who don't move rebate recipients to a better deal". This implies that energy retailers bear responsibility for moving rebate recipients onto the best value plan. But negotiations between the NSW Government and energy retailers have seen this measure watered down.

Retailers will not in fact be required to move rebate recipients onto the best value plan. Instead, they will simply be required to notify these customers every six months of the lowest price plan available. It's then up to the customer to get themselves onto that plan.

What if the best value plan requires an online sign up? What if the best value plan is only the best value plan if you pay on time or by direct debit?

While these questions remain to be answered, CPSA reckons that the original intent is clear – retailers should make sure rebate customers are on the best value plan and should support customers to get onto that plan. There should be no requirement to sign up online to access payment plans for those who can't pay their bills on time, no late fees and no obligations to sign up for direct debit.

There is also the question of fees. As part of the reform package, energy companies are no longer able to charge customers exit fees, fees to receive paper bills in the mail or fees to pay bills at the post office.

The announcement was made on 3 September and yet, at the time of writing, CPSA is aware of a number of big energy retailers which are still including these charges in new contracts.

It's time for the NSW Government to step in and make sure energy retailers are doing the right thing. While reform does take time, it's important that a long timeframe for implementation doesn't lead to a watering down of the original proposal.

CPSA will be fighting to make sure measures to support rebate customers are introduced as quickly as possible. In the meantime, if you're being charged fees to receive your bill in the mail or to pay at the post office, call your energy company and ask them to stop. Find out which companies have stopped charging these fees and take your business to them.