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Simpler electricity prices for seniors WANTED

Older consumers could now be caught up in confusing and misleading offers following the deregulation of retail electricity prices, according to National Seniors Australia.

Older consumers are at risk of incurring higher costs if they do not understand the contract terms (Source: Shutterstock)
Older consumers are at risk of incurring higher costs if they do not understand the contract terms (Source: Shutterstock)

Submitting to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) inquiry into Retail Electricity Prices and Supply, National Seniors says older consumers are right to be wary of the benefits and costs of market offers given a lack of regulation and transparency, and are calling for stronger protections and more education for consumers.

Following the submission made by National Seniors Australia, their Chief Advocate Ian Henschke adds that many consumers have ‘lost faith’ in the current system, given major retailers have been fined for false and misleading discount offers.

“Older consumers can be reticent to engage in the retail market and wary of the implications of taking up such offers,” Mr Henschke says

“They may actually be at risk of incurring higher costs if they do not understand the contract terms.

“This risk is compounded if they do not possess the digital skills required to readily shop around and find a better deal.”

With the latest electricity price increases hitting New South Wales, ACT and South Australia, Mr Henschke says National Seniors supports moves to reduce electricity prices, but questions if deregulation of retail pricing was the answer.

He adds that the sharp increase in electricity costs over the past decade is a significant concern for older Australians, especially those on low fixed incomes.

“Price deregulation does not always result in cheaper electricity for consumers,” Mr Henschke says.

“Research has shown that retail electricity prices and retail profit margins in Victoria have increased significantly where deregulation is well advanced. Deregulations should not create an opportunity for profiteering.”

The national body and it’s advocate believes consumers should be able to access a government standing offer as a default price as there is insufficient trust in the standard retail alternatives saying that it would benefit consumers unable to shop around for a market offer because of limited digital literacy.

The ACCC is scheduled to provide a preliminary report to Treasurer Scott Morrison by 27 September 2017.

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