Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Odds too heavily stacked against consumers in pricing review process

CUAC and Consumer Action are very disappointed to advise that we have had to cease formal involvement in the current Australian Competition Tribunal proceedings brought by Victoria’s five monopoly electricity distribution businesses challenging the Australian Energy Regulator’s final electricity distribution price determinations for 2011-15.

We are committed to holding the electricity distribution businesses to account and worked hard to make submissions to the Regulator during its original decision-making process, to keep prices within reasonable limits.  

When the businesses moved to challenge the final decision in the Tribunal, CUAC and Consumer Action partnered to seek leave to intervene and represent consumer interests.  Unfortunately, despite our best efforts, it has become clear that the legal, resource and information barriers we were facing were insurmountable.  This is exacerbated by the fact that several aspects of the proceedings are being fought on information over which the distributors claim “commercial confidentiality”, meaning consumers are not in a position to effectively assess or challenge the claims via the existing review process.

Our view is that the odds are heavily stacked against consumers in this review process.  We believe that consumers deserved to be heard in these - and future – proceedings and we will campaign to change the national electricity laws governing this, based on a report detailing our findings that we will publish in coming weeks.

Both CUAC and Consumer Action continue to support the Victorian Government’s intervention in this case.  We believe that both the Government and the Regulator have a responsibility to the state’s consumers to use their resources to present strong and compelling cases to challenge the claims of the distribution businesses.

We will not only monitor the progress and outcomes of the review but will continue to fight for better consumer outcomes in relation to price, quality, reliability and safety over the regulatory period.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Switching power to the people ...

The Herald Sun is asking all Victorians to join in its campaign against rapidly rising electricity prices...

Your stories

If you're not happy with the distribution companies' moves to gain further price increases or you're already struggling to pay your electricity bills, then tell us your story by posting a comment in the box below.

Consumer groups take on distributors to keep electricity prices down

The Consumer Action Law Centre and the Consumer Utilities Advocacy Centre have applied to the Australian Competition Tribunal for leave to intervene on behalf of consumers, in the appeals lodged by Victoria’s five electricity distributors against the Australian Energy Regulator’s recent price determinations that cut back the amounts the distributors wanted to charge consumers over the next five years.

Distribution costs account for around 40% of household electricity bills and it would be unfair if Victorian consumers were forced to pay millions of unnecessary extra dollars because distributors were able to argue for more money in court proceedings in which consumers did not get a say. 

Law firm Maurice Blackburn is representing the organisations in the proceedings on a pro bono basis, supported by barristers Kristine Hanscombe SC and Melanie Szydzik.

A hearing to be held on 17 February 2010 will determine whether the distributors will be given leave to proceed with their appeal and, if so, whether consumer advocates will be given permission to intervene.  If given the go ahead, the appeal is expected to be heard in March 2010.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Distribution costs will be increasing no matter what

Victoria’s electricity distributors are preparing to appeal the Australian Energy Regulator’s pricing decisions in the Australian Competition Tribunal next month.

However, even if they don’t succeed in this legal action, Victoria’s residential power bills will still be rising, on average, by $28.36 in 2011 and $47.82 in each of 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015 – that’s a total average increase of $219.67 over the next five years. 

Price increases will vary between distributors, and you should contact your distributor to find out how these price rises will affect you and complain if you’re not happy with their answer. For example, customers of SP Ausnet will see bills rise by $82.08 in 2011, with a total increase of $313.28 by the end of 2015.

2011 increase
Ave p.a. 2012-2015
Total increase
United Energy
SP AusNet
Ave increases

If you think these cost rises are enough and you don't think distributors should be asking for the power to increase your power bill even further, then write to them and let them know you're unhappy.

Do you think Victoria's energy distributors want to charge too much?

Then write to them and tell them so
CitiPower Covers Melbourne's CBD and inner suburbs
Phone: 131 280

Jemena Electricity Networks Covers the north-west greater metropolitan region of Melbourne
Phone: 131 626

Powercor Australia – Covers Melbourne's outer western suburbs as well as regional and rural centres in the central and western areas of the state such as Ballarat, Bendigo and Geelong
Phone: 13 24 12

SP AusNet – Covers Melbourne’s eastern metropolitan area and eastern Victoria
Phone: 131 799

United Energy Distribution – Covers the south-east Melbourne metropolitan area and the Mornington Peninsula
Phone: 132 099

For a map of the areas covered by your energy distributor, visit the Australian Energy Regulator's website ttp://