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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2021 Week 05 Hansard (Tuesday, 11 May 2021) . . Page.. 1253 ..

DR PATERSON (Murrumbidgee) (11.46): I thank the Chief Minister for bringing the bill to the Assembly. Comparing the cost of utilities is a complex matter for households and businesses across the ACT and one that is not well understood by many people. It can be difficult for members of our community to compare offers and discounts between different service providers because of the ways in which information is marketed by different providers and the number of different options available.

With a range of energy providers in the ACT, it can be overwhelming for people to understand differences between each one and their service offerings and to understand the best deals with the lowest prices. It can be difficult to reassess the situation as households and business needs change. The difference between a standing offer price and the best market price in the ACT can be up to $400 a year. Not only are there different providers but there are also many different online platforms and tools, ostensibly to help households and businesses select the best plan for them. However, this too can sometimes add to the confusion rather than helping.

Individual suppliers often have a range of different plans from which to choose, and then a person needs to compare among different providers. Some of the various aspects a person needs to consider include the overall cost of the utility service, any tariffs which determine differences in prices at different times of day or night and even across the year, any discounts that might apply, and whether the household or business is eligible for any rebates or concessions. It is time consuming.

This bill introduces a reference price framework for the ACT, making it easier for consumers to compare deals between different providers. The bill places an onus on service providers to give greater transparency about their services and costs, notifying consumers if there is a better deal that they could be on. Households and businesses across the ACT will finally be able to make informed decisions in making sure they get the best deal for their unique needs.

Recent government and industry reports note that many people in our community are on a particular plan simply because it is what they know and have always had. There are many different terms and conditions and a lack of clarity on how discounts are calculated. Too many Canberrans are not confident that their current plan provides them with the best deal. The requirement in the bill to ensure retailers proactively issue notices about better deals advising customers if they could save money by switching to a new offer will encourage consumers to reassess their options and to reduce their overall household or business operating costs. This places the onus on service providers and reduces the burden on consumers to figure it out for themselves.

Those in our community who are most likely to benefit from this bill are lower income households, for whom electricity costs often represent a far greater proportion of their overall weekly or fortnightly household income. Any savings will be acutely and positively noticed. The price of electricity is a key component of the cost of living and impacts on the wellbeing of many Canberrans. It remains critical that we continue to ensure low-income households have access to more affordable renewable energy and that the industry helps them to reduce their costs.

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