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The Annual Retail Markets Report 2018-19 has been launched by the Australian Energy Regulator (AER), providing customers, businesses and governments with access to quality information on retail energy market performance and compliance.

AER Chair, Clare Savage, said the report provides insight into the experience of the average Australian energy consumer and important issues in the market such as hardship, customer switching and compliance outcomes.

“The need to build consumer trust and confidence in the energy industry has never been higher, and I hope this report supports good customer outcomes,” Ms Savage said.

“Our report provides a level of transparency on the activities of energy retailers, and insights into Australian energy consumers, and how we can continue to support them.

“This report highlights the importance of competition, the need to empower consumers to shop around and to effectively regulate retailers and distributors to ensure their customers, especially those facing hardship, are protected.”

Key highlights from the report include:

  • An increase in residential consumers shopping around for a better deal, with 75 per cent of residential electricity customers and 85 per cent of residential gas customers on a market contract
  • The proportion of consumers in hardship programs remained steady with 1.1 per cent of residential electricity customers and 0.6 per cent residential gas customers accessing hardship services
  • The average debt of electricity hardship customers was significantly higher in 2018-2019
  • A slight decrease in the number of customers disconnected year on year

The median residential standing offer decreased by between nine and 24 per cent across New South Wales, South Australia, South East Queensland and Victoria. Significant reductions in standing offer prices are linked to the introduction – on 1 July 2019 – of the Default Market Offer and Victorian Default Offer.

Overall enforcement action in 2018–19 resulted in retailers and distributors paying a combined total of $320,000 in penalties, in response to 16 infringement notices, for allegedly failing to meet their obligations under the Retail Law and Rules.

A new Hardship Guideline was introduced in 2019 that works to ensure customers requiring assistance receive the protection to which they are entitled.

Ms Savage said the AER has added new elements to the report to ensure that emerging market trends are monitored and policy responses can be developed.

“This report also includes a new and troubling indicator that we have started tracking on credit collection,” Ms Savage said.

“Customers can be referred to debt collectors for debts of less than $500. About half of the people referred have had a negative flag on their credit rating because of that debt.

“The data we collect shows us where we need to act and where market reforms might help us do our job more effectively. This report is a record of that work and a source of valuable information for stakeholders as the transformation of Australia’s energy sector continues.”

Charlotte Pordage is Editor of Utility magazine, a position she has held since November 2018. She joined the team as an Associate Editor in October 2017, after sharpening her writing and editing skills across a range of print and digital publications. Charlotte graduated from Royal Holloway, University of London, in 2011 with joint honours in English and Latin. When she's not putting together Australia's only dedicated utility magazine, she can usually be found riding her horse or curled up with a good book.

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