Bills

Energy companies hauled to Canberra over power prices

Effective methods to allow you to save money on your energy bill.

Huge rises on energy bills are concerning many customers.

ENERGY companies aren’t doing enough to ensure customers are getting the best prices for their electricity, according to the Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.

Mr Turnbull has summoned electricity bosses for a meeting in Canberra on Wednesday to “eyeball” them about their charges.

In a letter sent to seven retail electricity chief executives, as well as the Australia Energy Council, the Prime Minister said the companies needed to be more transparent about fees.

During an interview on the ABC, Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg said he hoped the federal government wouldn’t have to introduce legislation to force energy companies to rein in rising power bills.

Some energy bills increased by up to 20 per cent from July 1 this year and the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission is investigating whether customers are being ripped off.

Last week Origin Energy and AGL refused to provide news.com.au with estimates of an average winter bill, which is generally the biggest bill households face. EnergyAustralia did eventually provide the data, which showed the increases varied widely depending on which state you lived in.

News.com.au has also been inundated with complaints from consumers about receiving huge bills, poor customer service when querying bills and unexpected price hikes due to estimated gas bills.

It comes after a report from Australian Energy Market Commission found some households could save a whopping $507 a year on electricity (38 per cent) if they shopped around, but up to 50 per cent of households didn’t do this. Gas savings could add up to 30 per cent or $285 a year.

“We believe that they can increase the transparency around the bills that people receive,” Mr Frydenberg told ABC Radio on Friday.

“People may get a discount for one or two years but remain on a contract for five or six years, but they don’t know when the discount ends and therefore they don’t know when they could be getting a better deal elsewhere.”

Mr Frydenberg said the government was looking at regulatory options.

“But in the first instance the prime minister wants to eyeball the retailers and to tell them that we all need to do better to ensure particularly vulnerable households … get the best possible deals.”

Those invited to the meeting in Canberra include the heads of Energy Australia, Origin Energy, AGL, Snowy Hydro, Momentum Energy, Alinta Energy, Simply Energy.

The prime minister has previously met with gas company chiefs, which led to government intervention in a bid to keep a lid on escalating prices.

Mr Frydenberg said there had been a fall in the spot price of gas by $2 from March this year.

RELATED: Real reasons our power prices are going up

Consumers are concerned about skyrocketing power prices.

Consumers are concerned about skyrocketing power prices.Source:News Limited

“It needs to go down further because we completely understand the pain which major businesses and households are going through with higher gas prices and electricity prices,” he said.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission is due to release its interim report on competition in the electricity sector in September and a final report in June 2018.

But Mr Frydenberg said the government couldn’t afford to wait that long before acting.

Canstar Blue editor Simon Downes told news.com.au that customers needed to get into the mindset of comparing offers all the time.

“They could sign up to the cheapest product today but in six months time, it could be one of the most expensive,” he said.

“Many people don’t want to switch products every six to 12 months but you’ve got to be willing to do that to get a good deal.”

For example, Origin, AGL and EnergyAustralia had been offering a fixed rate contracts ahead of the July 1 price increase, which would have locked in cheaper energy rates for two years but was now no longer available.

“For those living in Queensland and NSW in particular, if they took advantage of this offer before July they would probably be on their way to saving $400 over the next two years,” Mr Downes said.

The AEMC found that many people did not know about comparison websites like Energy Made Easy, which allows people to find and compare electricity providers in their area.

charis.chang@news.com.au | @charischang2

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