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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2021 Week 05 Hansard (Tuesday, 11 May 2021) . . Page.. 1251 ..


Canberrans dudded on power bills, which is why this bill is overdue, particularly as we now have a host of retailers on the market.

Canberrans have been left in the dark for too long. Economic conditions are still challenging for many Canberrans, a saving of up to $400 per year is significant. The Canberra Liberals support measures to make electricity prices more transparent for consumers but caution that the price comparison framework must be carefully monitored to ensure it produces the required outcome for consumers and it must be regularly reviewed and evaluated.

MR RATTENBURY (Kurrajong—Attorney-General, Minister for Consumer Affairs, Minister for Gaming and Minister for Water, Energy and Emissions Reduction) (11.41): I thank members for their contributions to the debate on this bill. The bill introduces an electricity reference price framework and requires electricity retailers to inform customers of better deals. These are important reforms that will assist ACT consumers to make informed choices when comparing electricity offers.

The regulation of electricity prices in the ACT has contributed to households having relatively lower electricity prices compared to other capital cities over the past decade. However, many consumers still pay more than they should because comparing offers and discounts proves difficult for them. The reference price that will be set under these reforms will not be an indicator of the lowest price available; rather the reference price will be a comparison tool or benchmark that will be set annually to broadly reflect the average customer and a possible annual price of electricity. Retailers will use this price for comparison purposes in advertising, ensuring that all offers and discounts are compared against the same benchmark.

Some other jurisdictions have already introduced similar measures to improve the transparency and comparability of their electricity offers. For example, the National Default Market Office Scheme applies in New South Wales, South Australia and south east Queensland, and the Victorian default offer obviously applies in Victoria. The initial outcome from these jurisdictions suggests the reforms are helping consumers find the best offer for their circumstances, saving them money.

National and jurisdictional initiatives do not apply in the ACT, due to our regulation of retail electricity prices. This bill brings the ACT in line with these other jurisdictions. The territory reference price framework draws from both existing schemes to overcome the current issues of inconsistent discounting and advertising practices that confuse many customers. The proposals have been recommended to the government by the ACT Independent Competition and Regulatory Commission.

The ACT Greens proposed action on these recommendations in our election commitments at the last election and they were agreed in the parliamentary and governing agreement between the Labor and Greens parties. We are acting on them now through this bill, and they should be in operation in the second half of this year.

The market of electricity plans has become a confusing labyrinth for consumers. In many ways it is comparable to the epitome of customer difficulty—the mobile phone plan, where there are base rates, time-based charges, flag falls and a range of different


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