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Consumers left wanting more from energy retail markets

Energy Consumers Australia today published the results of its second bi-annual survey of the attitudes and activity of household and small business energy consumers.

Energy Consumers Australia CEO Rosemary Sinclair said the survey of 2,300 consumers, undertaken during August and September 2016, showed that energy consumers are seeing mixed results.

“As we found in the first survey, consumers are telling us that overall they are satisfied with their electricity and gas services.” Ms Sinclair said.

“Consumers in the states such New South Wales, South Australia and Victoria where the market has been opened up to competition and retail prices have been deregulated for some time continue to report the highest levels of overall satisfaction.

“However, households and small businesses across Australia are again telling us that the value for money of their electricity services ranks behind gas and all other utility services, including banking, mobile phones and internet services.

“And while some consumers are taking advantage of competition to get better value for money, the majority are not shopping around and switching to get a better deal.

“Understanding why such a high number of households and small businesses do not appear to be actively engaging in the market is a key question for the industry.

Ms Sinclair said the result should focus the attention of the industry on the practicalities for consumers of making choices and switching in this market.

“We need to make shopping around as easy and convenient as possible.”

“But there is a bigger task for the sector to look beyond metrics like switching to address consumers’ general wariness about the market and the sense that it is not working in their interests.

“The result that stood out for us in this survey was that the consumers who are switching – who are actively engaging in the market – are not reporting higher levels of satisfaction with value for money than those who are not.

“This points to the need to place the retail market – where there are questions about value for money, the nature of the services being offered and where innovation is going to come from – at the centre of thinking about the transformation of the energy system.[1]

The full research findings are available here and Rosemary Sinclair is available for interview.

Media contact: Marie Bout, 0405 399 164

Energy Consumers Australia was established on 30 January 2015 to advocate on national energy market matters of strategic importance and material consequence for energy consumers, in particular household and small business consumers.

[1] We note the Independent Review into the Future Security of the National Electricity Market (The Finkel Review) is considering the structure and operation of the retail market in the development of a national reform blueprint – see Preliminary Report.