Electricity companies will now have to inform Canberrans about better deals on their bills, a move designed to save consumers hundreds and businesses thousands of dollars each year.
Retailers will need to use a benchmark electricity price for comparison in their advertising and ensure all offers and discounts are compared against the same benchmark.
The ACT Government will sign-off on the reference price on advice from the Independent Competition and Regulatory Commission.
The reference price will not show the lowest deal available; rather, it will inform Canberrans that better deals are available, Attorney-General Shane Rattenbury said.
The new rules will help Canberrans more easily navigate the “confusing labyrinth” of electricity prices and retailers, Mr Rattenbury told the Legislative Assembly as the Bill passed on Tuesday (11 May).
“These are important reforms that will assist ACT consumers to make informed choices when comparing electricity offers,” he said.
“Some other jurisdictions have already introduced similar measures to improve the transparency and comparability of the electricity offers.
“The initial outcome from these jurisdictions suggests the reforms are helping consumers find the best offer for their circumstances, saving them money.”
Around 40 per cent of retail customers and more than half of small businesses are on standard electricity contracts.
The measures should be operational in the second half of this year, Mr Rattenbury said.
The measures are set to coincide with electricity price hikes from 1 July this year under Evoenergy’s pricing proposal for the next financial year.
Average residential customers face a 36 per cent rise (around $5 a week) in the network charge on their electricity bill while average businesses will be hit with a 41 per cent rise in network charges (around $32 a week).
The Canberra Liberals supported the legislation, but Shadow Minister for Energy and Emissions Reduction Leanne Castley called the bill overdue.
“Canberrans have been left in the dark for too long,” Ms Castley said.
“While ActewAGL’s market share has been declining, the partly public-owned company still has 83 per cent of the market – that is huge. The vast majority of Canberrans are with ActewAGL and on the standard flat tariff. In other words, we are paying more than we should be.”
Ms Castley said Canberrans also suffered from a ‘loyalty tax’.
“ACT consumers are far less active than elsewhere in Australia,” she said.
“That is not surprising when you consider Canberrans have not had the transparent pricing that several states have had for a number of years. Thank goodness that is soon to change.”
The legislation follows similar measures in NSW, South Australia, and Victoria.