Consumers wanting more from energy firms

Belinda Tasker
(Australian Associated Press)

Higher prices might be enticing consumers to switch energy companies, but many believe they aren’t necessarily getting a better deal after making the move.

A new survey of 2300 energy consumers has found that when it comes to value for money for electricity, households are less satisfied than they are with their banking, water, mobile phone, insurance and internet services.

Half of all households in Victoria, NSW and South Australia said they had considered switching providers in the past three years, but most didn’t end up making the move, the survey by Energy Consumers Australia found.

But of those that did switch, about half reported no change in their satisfaction levels.

Energy Consumers Australia chief executive Rosemary Sinclair said while policy makers had long encouraged consumers to switch electricity companies to ensure they were getting the best deal, there were several barriers to ensuring that’s what they ended up with.

Some were worried they would get a worse deal if they switched, others found it too hard or time consuming, and many said they didn’t understand the information they were given by energy companies.

“There’s a general wariness about this market so it’s not just a matter of encouraging people to switch because people aren’t confident about this market,” she told AAP on Tuesday.

“We need to make shopping around as easy and convenient as possible.”

The survey also found a trend towards more households considering investing in rooftop solar panels or electricity batteries in help manage their future energy costs in the next five years.

“It’s clear that the financial factors are driving people’s decisions about these alternative technologies which to us is a very strong statement from consumers that: ‘This market is not working for me and now the prices of solar and batteries are coming down I’m going to do something about it’,” Ms Sinclair said.

The survey was the second of its kind and conducted between August and September 2016, just after retail energy prices rose in most states.

The Energy Consumers Association plans to repeat the survey every six months to help track changes in sentiment and identify trends to help inform energy market and policy development.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has pledged to make electricity prices and energy security defining issues in 2017.

Ms Sinclair said the Energy Consumers Association planned to include its survey findings in its submission to Chief Scientist Alan Finkel’s ongoing examination of energy market security.

His report is due to be released later this year.


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