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Electricity, gas companies turn off consumers

Many households believe their electricity service represents poor value for money, a survey found.

Many households believe their electricity service represents poor value for money, a survey found. Photo: TND

Australian households view gas and electricity providers as offering worse value for money and being less trustworthy than supermarkets.

That’s according to the Energy Consumer Sentiment Survey, released on Wednesday, which also found more than half of households across all income brackets except the highest were under financial pressure, or managing to pay their bills but struggling to afford anything else.

The survey by Energy Consumers Australia canvassed the views of more than 2100 households and 500 small business owners nationwide, and researchers say the poor sentiment should come as no surprise as energy leaders gather in Melbourne for a high-powered conference.

“The energy sector needs to take a good hard look at itself in the light of these results,” consumer advocate Brendan French said.

Consumers under financial pressure were more likely to have considered switching energy retailer or plan but ultimately decided not to (30 per cent compared with 22 per cent for the financially comfortable), the survey found.

When asked why they did not switch, consumers said it was too confusing, time-consuming or complicated.

Almost half (49 per cent) of rural households reported having an electricity outage in the past six months compared with just over a quarter (27 per cent) in inner metro areas.

Many households and small businesses said their electricity service represented poor value for money, following price hikes that began two years ago.

Despite a slight improvement in the past six months, value for money was lowest for households in NSW (52 per cent) and highest for SA (61 per cent).

After similar increases in gas prices, value for money for gas services remains low compared with two years ago although WA, with its own reservation policy for domestic gas, rated the highest on value for money (71 per cent).

Calling for better consumer protections and tighter enforcement of energy retailers, Dr French said affordability had consistently been the number one concern for the past decade in Energy Consumers Australia’s surveys.

He said there were substantial savings on bills to be had for consumers who can upgrade their homes, but more and more Australians were experiencing energy stress.

“We want to see people on low incomes and people under financial pressure provided with enough financial supports to make these changes to their homes so they can access those cost savings,” he said.

An outlook from Australian Energy Market Operator chief Daniel Westerman will open Australian Energy Week 2024, focused on energy security and decarbonisation, followed by appearances from energy bosses including AGL’s Damien Nicks.

– AAP

Topics: Gas
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