POLITICS

Round Two For The PM And Energy Retailers Over Power Price Pain

Malcolm Turnbull will be demanding relief for about a million households.

29/08/2017 10:35 PM AEST | Updated 29/08/2017 10:35 PM AEST
Andrew Meares/Fairfax
Round one: Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull first met energy retail chiefs at Parliament House three weeks ago.

CANBERRA -- Making power cheaper for Australian consumers - who are paying some of the highest prices in the world - was never going to be easy. There are many forces at play, domestic gas shortages, lack of certainty in energy policy and monopolies in energy markets.

But Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull is going round two on Wednesday with the bosses of seven of Australia's biggest power companies in Sydney and will be demanding power bill relief for about a million households on standard contracts, or "standing offers."

It'll be the second time the Prime Minister has met with the retailers, including the big three providers, in three weeks.

The CEOs from Energy Australia, Momentum Energy, Simply Energy, Alinta Energy, Origin Energy, AGL, Australian Energy Council and Snowy Hydro, plus their industry body the Australian Energy Council, are expected to report back on what was agreed earlier this month, specifically the deal struck to get electricity providers to tell millions of customers in "plain English" that they could get better deals elsewhere and make it easier to switch plans.

But at the second meeting, the Turnbull Government is expected to demand relief for about one million households, according to the ACCC, that are on "standing offers' who could be on a better deal. Standing offers, as opposed to market retail contracts, are often higher power deals which are not subject to discounts from retailers.

Consumers often sign up to cheaper market retail contracts but get stung when they are swapped to higher priced standard contracts after the initial deal runs out.

HuffPost Australia understands the retailers will be asked to write to these households and advise them, where possible, of better deals they could be on.

Contacting consumers is one thing, but one major concern is how to get customers engaged in the process of potentially changing deals. Getting "hardship" relief for energy bills has to be sought by the consumer in trouble. Consent is needed, so will consumers readily take part in reviewing contracts and seeking the best deal?

Ahead of the meeting, Turnbull said he was aware of reports of households being offered 25 to 27 per cent discounts.

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