This month, new light will be shone on how electricity retailers make up their charges when the competition watchdog hands down a draft report on the industry.
On launching the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission’s (ACCC) inquiry, chairman Rod Sims said the aim was to recommend ways of improving outcomes for customers when they choose and buy electricity.
Included in the probe will be the net profits made by energy retailers and paid to shareholders.
Following are the latest figures reported by the major energy companies, which include gains from gas and generation operations:
- Australian-listed AGL – net profit $539 million
- Australian-listed Origin Energy – net profit $589 million
- Hong Kong company Energy Australia – operating profit $310 million
The ACCC will also examine any impediments to consumers seeking more competitive pricing.
Unfortunately, the final recommendations are not expected until May next year. It is then up to the Federal Government to decide whether to act on them. It is possible that more consumer-friendly changes to the way retailers charge could be many moons away.
A spokesperson for the ACCC told YourLifeChoices that consumers should not wait for the inquiry’s findings to be implemented before shopping for a better deal.
He said the government website, www.energymadeeasy.gov.au, can be used by most Australians to compare electricity deals.
Consumers in the Northern Territory, Western Australia and Victoria cannot compare their state’s electricity retailers on the Energy Made Easy government website. Victorians can find electricity offers at https://compare.switchon.vic.gov.au. For more information on WA deals, visit www.treasury.wa.gov.au/public-utilities-office, and for NT pricing, go to the Utilities Commission.
However, the ACCC spokesperson warned that what may appear to be large discounts offered by some retailers on the Energy Made Easy website were not always transparent.
“The discounts are off the tariffs the companies charge and they may vary significantly.
“We are hoping that the ACCC report’s outcome will make comparing apples with apples easier.”
There are a number of organisations offering to find you cheaper electricity. One of the most popular is the group-discount outfit One Big Switch, which tells Victorians they can reduce power bills by up to 34 per cent, potentially saving $909 a year.
Sites such as Electricity Wizard bedazzle with offers of up to 40 per cent, but only from its ‘preferred partners’ – a group of just seven retailers.
Some retailers, which are actually third-party traders such as Powershop, give discounts to consumers who estimate their future usage and pay for units in advance.
Lumo Energy rewards consumers with a 33 per cent discount if they pay their power bill on time.
If flexibility is a consideration, opt for a retailer with no lock-in contracts or exit fees. This allows you to keep an eye on new offers and switch provider without penalty.
A new entrant in Victoria, Globird Energy, offers discounts of up to 40 per cent with no contracts or exit fees. It lets consumers know in advance if it is expecting a rise in wholesale prices, which all retailers pass onto bills. This gives consumers time to shop around to see if they still have a good deal after a price hike.
When comparing prices online, have your last electricity bill at hand in order to provide information the retailer needs to figure out your new tariff. Often, you will also be asked to provide some personal details while doing your research.
Submissions to the ACCC inquiry are available to the public.