Unfair electricity fees make it impossible to shop around

Retailers are making it almost impossible for consumers to completely understand the costs they are liable for on an electricity contract or to compare electricity prices between retailers, according to a new report.

The report, Energy Retail Market: Additional Fees and Charges – What will you pay?, was released today by St Vincent de Paul Society.

‘It is disappointing that fees and charges, which can be worth hundreds of dollars, are presented in a way that makes it difficult for consumers to understand and even harder for them to use this information to shop around for the best electricity provider,’ said Oliver Derum from PIAC’s Energy + Water Consumer Advocacy Program.

‘For example, the report showed huge, inexplicable variations in the fees between different retailers – one retailer charges an early contract termination fee of $350, while others change less than $50.

‘Even worse, some fees are only revealed to consumers at the last moment before they sign up and many retailers provide ambiguous information about what fees might apply to an account.

‘For the competitive market to work, consumers need to be informed about what they’re buying.

‘People deserve to know what costs they are liable for, and need to be able to compare contracts.

The report also notes that consumers have been overcharged due to ‘retailer error’. In one case earlier this year, Australian Power and Gas was ordered to pay back $754,000 it had overcharged customers.

MEDIA CONTACT: PIAC Media and Communications Officer, Gemma Pearce: 0478 739 280 

Photo: Flickr/Ian Britton

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