Victoria’s big power companies have flagged significant price hikes for 2018 and must increase relief by an equal measure, according to the Victorian Council of Social Service.
The big energy providers’ basic standing offers are set to increase by about 9.4% (AGL), 13.7% (Energy Australia) and 14.4% (Origin Energy) in 2018.
While just 10% of customers are on standing offers, and some customers on these deals will enjoy a price freeze in 2018, the more popular market deals are likely to increase also.
VCOSS CEO Emma King said with power prices skyrocketing, more needs to be done to help those struggling to pay.
“Power is an essential service. We can’t have people choosing between cooling and food, or hot showers and their kids’ school books, because power is too expensive,” Ms King said.
“As the energy companies charge more for power, they have a moral responsibility to help those struggling to pay. This could be in the form of price freezes or reductions for all customers facing hardship.”
Ms King said new protections for customers were recently announced by the Essential Services Commission but won’t take effect until January 2019.
“Power companies should immediately begin acting in the spirit of these new rules and give power customers more rights and respect when they struggle to pay.”
Ms King said the Victorian Government also has a role to play.
“The Utility Relief Grant—which helps people unable to pay their electricity, gas or water bills due to unforeseen financial distress—hasn’t increased since 2010 despite dramatic energy prices rises since then.”
“Victoria should increase and index the Utility Relief Grant so it keeps pace with the true cost of electricity, gas and water.”
VCOSS is also calling on the government to guarantee access to emergency relief and financial counselling for all Victorians.
“Power price rises affect everybody, but are felt most acutely by those already doing it tough. We must make sure these Victorians are not forgotten,” Ms King said.