What’s banned and capped - The new ACCC code energy retailers must follow

From July 1, energy retailers in South Australia, New South Wales and South East Queensland will be forced to follow the ACCC’s new Electricity Retail Code, potentially saving Aussies on their bill.

Released on Tuesday, the Code will introduce a cap on ‘standing offers’, which will be set annually by the Australian Energy Regulator (AER). It’s hoped that this will reduce the cost of electricity for customers on these offers.

Should a customer’s standing price offer change when the cap comes into effect, retailers are also expected to inform customers of the change.

Headline discounting, or conditional discounts will be banned and are no longer allowed to be the most visible price advertised - all conditions must also be clearly stated.

According to ACCC Commissioner, Cristina Cifuentes, the new Electricity Retail Code is all about enforcing a recurring theme designed to help give customers more freedom and power: transparency.

“These new rules, based on recommendations by the ACCC, increase transparency in advertising of electricity offers, and put consumers in a stronger position by enabling them to trust retailers’ advertised discounts and find a better deal,” said ACCC Commissioner, Cristina Cifuentes.

“Current discounting practises confuse consumers and large discounts off inflated standing offers do not always result in lower electricity prices for consumers.”

Mending the energy market

In March the ACCC released its first ever electricity monitoring report, which revealed that despite a rise in advertised discounts, both bills and prices had been increasing during 2017-2018.

Retailers were also accused of advertising large pay-on-time discounts, which in the end often penalised customers for not paying on time with a higher price - effectively functioning as a late fee.

And in addition to the price sting, customers were also left in the dark in regards to how to compare discounts and energy deals effectively.

Mozo Energy Expert, Nathan Warne at the time said,  “There’s a lot of confusion around bill discounts because you can’t compare them fairly, there’s a lot of inconsistency between retailers. Some may offer you a discount off the entire bill and others are only off your usage charges.”

And when asked if the new Electricity Retail Code will make a difference to customers trying to get the best deal on their power bills, Warne says that July 1 could be the right time to start.

“Having the ability to shop around on energy energy has been made hard, thanks to confusing discounts, so any change is welcomed.”

“With these new changes coming into play in the next few weeks, I think we’ll see a difference in not only how retailers present their plans to customers, but an increased drive among customers to start comparing deals.”

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