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Better energy offers on the cards but will it benefit older Australians?

A new deal between energy retailers and the Federal Government aims to see better offers and a reduction in energy costs for consumers but concerns have been raised as to whether it is enough.

Better offers and lower prices could benefit senior Australians (Source: Shutterstock)
Better offers and lower prices could benefit senior Australians (Source: Shutterstock)

The deal struck between seven major energy retailers, such as AGL, Origin Energy and Simply Energy, and the Prime Minister aims to see providers notifying customers when their discount benefits end, and telling them how much they can save on a better deal.

The Australian Energy Council, who will be working with its retailers and the government in rolling out the commitments, says the industry is ‘acutely aware’ of the impact of high-energy costs on consumers, which only increase the importance of accessing the best retail energy deal.

“Rising energy bills make it all the more important to help consumers find the best deal for them,” Australian Energy Council Chief Executive Matthew Warren says.

“We will work with the Federal Government to improve the way we notify customers about the deals they are on and to help them find more competitive offers.”

While admitting the deal is a ‘step in the right direction’, Seniors Australia Chief Advocate, Ian Henschke says it doesn’t go far enough with consumers, including vulnerable older people on low, fixed incomes, still having to navigate the complexities of offers.

“While the agreement the government has struck with retailers will provide more useful billing information, it does not address the underlying issue facing consumers, which is the proliferation of offers that are confusing and misleading,” Mr Henschke says.

He adds that the deal neglects the digital literacy challenges many older people still face, with a need to use independent comparison websites still necessary when looking to reap the benefits.

Despite the government stating that the immediate measures and ongoing changes announced as part of the deal will be backed by law, Mr Henschke has also raised concerns about how much retailers can be trusted.

“Given the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has had to deal with misleading information from retailers in the past, can we really trust retailers to tell their customers how to get a better deal?” He asks.

The full list of commitments made by energy retailers include:

  • Contacting all the customers now who are on expired discounts and telling them how much they can save on a better deal
  • Requiring companies report to the Government and ACCC what they are doing to get families on to a better deal and how many families remain on expired deals
  • Developing simple, plain English, fact sheets with understandable comparison rates
  • Support a change to the electricity rules requiring companies to inform customers when their discount benefits end, setting out the dollar impact of doing nothing
  • Ensuring families and individuals on hardship programs will not lose any benefit or discount for late payment

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