The Turnbull government has vowed to take tough action if electricity retailers fail to give consumers greater control over their power bills.
“I don’t think the energy companies are in any doubt that should we wish to move here we have form,” Treasurer Scott Morrison told ABC radio on Thursday, alluding to measures the government imposed on the banking sector.
The government, following a meeting with electricity company chiefs on Wednesday, has demanded retailers provide consumers with better information about their power plans, especially when discounts expire.
“They’re under no doubt that we expect them to act – if they don’t act we will,” Mr Morrison said.
The treasurer said electricity retailers were not unlike the big banks on whom the government had imposed tougher consumer data, more stringent governance regulation including on senior executives, and a levy.
“We will take the steps that are necessary, and what is necessary is that the customers need more power over their power bills,” he said.
Australian Energy Council chief Matthew Warren said retailers would write to all customers explaining the deals they are on, and providing help to find more competitive offers.
But he says a bigger problem is the uncertainty over national climate and energy policy which is deterring investment in new baseload power.
The shortage of supply is the key factor in recent hikes in energy costs, he says.
Labor frontbencher Mark Butler said the government needed to accept bipartisan support for a new clean energy target, as recommended in a review by Chief Scientist Alan Finkel.
That way, power industry investors could get the long-term certainty they need.
It’s been estimated households could save $1000 or more a year by switching companies or $400 just by getting a better deal from their existing supplier.
Liberal Democrats senator David Leyonhjelm says GST should be removed from electricity bills in a bid to save households about $200 a year.