Sydney Water price rises may bring further bill stress

Sydney Water customers will face difficult choices next year, with more sharp increases to household utility costs expected from 1 July 2012. 

In the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal of NSW (IPART) current review of Sydney Water’s prices, the water utility applied for a 15.1% increase to water and sewerage charges (above inflation) over a four-year period. Sydney Water predicts this will be equivalent to a $166 rise for average household water bills between 2012 and 2016.

Public Interest Advocacy Centre (PIAC) CEO Edward Santow has expressed concern that “these price rises will place an extra burden on many low-income and vulnerable consumers already struggling to manage household expenditure.

“We saw sharp rises in electricity prices on 1 July this year, and know many consumers are already forgoing essentials, like adequate lighting and heating, to cover the costs of such bills,” Mr Santow said.

PIAC also has concerns that Sydney Water’s price rises will be introduced from 1 July 2012, at the same time any changes to regulated electricity prices will come into effect.

“The fact that these sharp increases to household utilities are happening at the same time could lead to bill shock for many NSW consumers,” Mr Santow said.

Sydney Water’s data shows the number of customers accessing its financial assistance programs has increased significantly since 2008. Sydney Water recorded over 50,000 customers seeking assistance to help cover water bills over the 2009-10 financial year.

PIAC believes one way to assist households absorb any rises in water prices is to smooth out increases over the determination period. Sydney Water currently plans to initially increase the average household bill by $103 over 2012-13.

“PIAC’s submission to IPART recommends that Sydney Water spread the largest portion of the cost rise over the first two years, instead of one, as a compromise to reduce the risk of customers experiencing bill shock,” said Carolyn Hodge, Senior Policy Officer with PIAC’s Energy and Water Consumers’ Advocacy Program.

Photo: Flickr

MEDIA CONTACT: PIAC Media and Communications Officer:  Keren Lavelle

Ph: (02) 8898 6532; Carolyn Hodge Ph: (02) 8898 6520, [email protected]

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