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Staying connected: improving outcomes for vulnerable consumers of energy + water Jo Benvenuti Executive Officer Consumer Utilities Advocacy Centre.

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Presentation on theme: "Staying connected: improving outcomes for vulnerable consumers of energy + water Jo Benvenuti Executive Officer Consumer Utilities Advocacy Centre."— Presentation transcript:

1 Staying connected: improving outcomes for vulnerable consumers of energy + water Jo Benvenuti Executive Officer Consumer Utilities Advocacy Centre

2 About CUAC Established in 2002 to: Represent all Victorian energy and water consumers in policy and regulatory processes Facilitate and undertake research on consumer utilities issues Monitor grassroots consumer utilities issues with particular regard for low-income, disadvantaged and rural consumers

3 Higher energy prices Residential electricity prices  up avg. 22% in 2012  up 65% since 2008/2009 Residential gas prices  up 14% 2012  up 38% since 2008/2009 Source: ESC Energy retailers comparative performance report – pricing 2012/2013

4 Savings to be made in market offers Consumers are accessing market offers  77% have moved to market offer  22% remain on standing offer Source: Wallis Strategic market and social research Victorians’ Experience of the Electricity Market 2013 – Final report

5 Consumers increasingly don’t understand market offers On scale of 1 to 10 - average score for ability to understand pricing offer made:  6.00 in 2004  4.7 in Source: Wallis Strategic market and social research Victorians’ Experience of the Electricity Market 2013 – Final report

6 Source: Improving Energy market Competition Through Consumer Participation A CUAC Research Report December 2011 Reported incidence of common misleading sales tactics at the door

7 Source: Improving Energy market Competition Through Consumer Participation - A CUAC Research Report, December 2011 Consumer engagement with Victorian retail energy market

8 Water price increase Metro prices  Up 25% from July 2013  No further increases to 2018  $5.25m hardship allowance Regional and rural prices  Smaller increases, but some consumers paying more than metro Price Review 2013: Urban Water Businesses – Final Decision

9 Challenges:  Water restrictions and legal actions trending up from low base Initiatives:  Vulnerable customer taskforce  Working with community agencies  Hardship initiatives  Transparency

10  Energy disconnections trending up  Payment plans and hardship plans stable Challenges:

11 Energy hardship plans  18,879 households on hardship plans in 2012  8000 (42%) concession cardholders  3806 (20%) left plan with agreement of retailer  48% left plan because they didn’t comply  debt on entering plan increasing Source: ESC Comparative performance report – Customer service

12 Impacts of price increase on low income households:  used a range of measures to reduce energy consumption  switched companies to reduce bills Source: Dr Lynne Chester, University of Sydney: The Impacts and Consequences for Low-Income Australian Households of Rising Energy Prices

13 Findings  energy inefficient appliances and housing  high awareness of energy efficiency  low awareness of government assistance  hardship plans don’t reflect capacity to pay  lack internet access (1.5m across Australia)  long waiting times contacting retailers on high cost mobile phones  difficult to access assistance as self identify required - need to have information Source: Dr Lynne Chester, University of Sydney: The Impacts and Consequences for Low-Income Australian Households of Rising Energy Prices

14 Conclusion  Need sustainable pensions and benefits  Automatic systems for concession access  Partnership: gov, industry, regulators, community  Review effectiveness of hardship plans

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