Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2021 Week 05 Hansard (Tuesday, 11 May 2021) . . Page.. 1252 ..
charges that make it too complex for customers to understand, at least not without hours to spare making comparative tables. This framework seeks to demystify the electricity price landscape for Canberrans and enables them to make better informed choices regarding electricity offers.
In the ACT, around 40 per cent of retail electricity customers and over 50 per cent of small business electricity customers are on a standard electricity contract. Switching to the cheaper market offers could literally save these customers hundreds or even thousands of dollars every year. But many customers do not realise this or find the array of different contracts too complicated.
The two changes in this legislation can, hopefully, improve this situation and save people and businesses money. The reference price allows customers to compare a simple apples-for-apples price across contracts. This reference price will be set by the government and signed off by me as energy minister and by the Treasurer upon advice from the ICRC. Perhaps even more powerful is the requirement that electricity retailers proactively contact their customers and inform them if there is a cheaper contract that would save them money. This is required to be done in a formal and factual way, not as part of some advertisement where the customer may not be certain they can trust the information.
We do not want to delay consumers getting information that helps them manage their energy costs. The Australian Energy Regulator has recently announced that it is undertaking work to draft a better bills guideline, which could include similar requirements introduced by this this bill. As this develops, we will consider how this affects our approach in the ACT.
It is important that ACT consumers are provided with assistance to get better deals now and make the comparison of offers easier. There was some question about whether we should wait for the AER to finish their work. But it is quite clear that these important reforms should be done sooner rather than later to provide Canberra consumers with the information that will help them reduce their energy costs.
In summary, this bill achieves our commitment to helping consumers find better electricity deals and delivers on our commitments set out in the parliamentary agreement. I thank the ICRC, Treasury and EPSDD for their advice and their ongoing work on this issue as well as electricity retailers for working with the government to implement these changes.
I also thank members for their support of the bill. These new changes will help to ease cost of living pressures by making it easier for Canberra residents to save money on their electricity bills. That is an important outcome for the community both as consumers who have a right to clear and consistent information from service providers and as people and families who have to manage household costs. It is also part of the government’s strong commitment to ensuring that the transition to a zero emissions future is one that is fair and just for all.
I commend the bill to the Assembly.