The ACT Council of Social Service (ACTCOSS) today said that more needs to be done to protect vulnerable utilities consumers and to rebuild trust between providers and customers.
This follows data released today by Energy Consumers Australia (ECA) showing that in the ACT there is deteriorating household satisfaction with gas and electricity services and evidence that many are not getting the help they are asking for from their retailer.
Last month, the Australian Energy Retailer issued a record fine to Origin Energy for breaching its hardship obligations on more than 100,000 occasions impacting over 90,000 customers - including many in the ACT. EnergyAustralia was also recently penalised for failing to comply with life support obligations for its customers who rely on life-saving health equipment.
ACTCOSS CEO, Dr Emma Campbell said: “Many Canberrans will find themselves worse off in terms of their combined electricity, gas, and water bills over the next 12 months.
“People are struggling to cover the snowballing costs of gas and electricity made worse by other rapid increases in the cost of living, and Canberrans on low incomes are going without meals or heating in order to pay rent, feed the kids and afford petrol for the drive to work.
“Retailers are often the first point of call for Canberrans who are struggling to pay the bills. Those retailers operating in the ACT are obligated to support customers who face challenges in covering costs of these essential services,” Dr Campbell said.
ECA’s June 2022 Sentiment Survey showed that over the last 6 months in the ACT there was declining consumer satisfaction with:
- Cost of electricity and gas supply
- Assistance to manage electricity and gas bills
- Communication with electricity and gas retailers and service providers; and
- Overall customer service.
The research also showed a significant decrease in trust among ACT consumers in electricity, gas and water services to do the right thing by their customers.
Dr Campbell noted: “ECA’s survey shows that in the ACT there is deteriorating household satisfaction with gas and electricity services and evidence that many are not getting the help they are asking for from their retailer.
“In particular, smaller and new entrant retailers must demonstrate a commitment to the Canberra market through improved service and understanding of the ACT and national regulations, and supports that are on offer to vulnerable Canberrans.
“Utility retailers and service providers must reflect on ECA’s survey results and improve the services offered to ACT consumers.
“Governments and regulators must ensure that vulnerable consumers are protected, that support is offered to people when it is needed and that the public retains its trust in energy providers."
“All Canberrans are entitled to affordable and reliable utilities to keep themselves and their families safe, healthy and comfortable,” Dr Campbell concluded.
Energy Consumers Australia Sentiment Survey can be found on its website: https://ecss.energyconsumersaustralia.com.au/sentiment-survey-june-2022/
ACTCOSS advocates for social justice in the ACT and represents not-for-profit community organisations. Follow us @ACTCOSS on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.
For more information or comment, please contact
Dr Emma Campbell, CEO, ACTCOSS, on 0424 910 617 or 02 6202 7200