CovaU fined for allegedly failing to show how plans compare to Reference Price

Aussie-owned retailer CovaU has been fined $33,300 after the consumer watchdog slapped it with three infringement notices for alleged contraventions of the Electricity Retail Code.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) alleged that CovaU failed to provide adequate comparison pricing on its electricity plans that were advertised on its website between 27 June and 19 July 2021.

It is alleged that three of the power company’s plans did not specify a percentage difference to the reference price, otherwise known as the Default Market Offer (DMO).

ACCC Deputy Chair Mick Keogh said retailers must display pricing information that clearly outlines how a plan compares to the DMO.

“Comparison pricing is vital for consumers searching for the best electricity deal, as it provides a consistent benchmark,” he said. “The failure to publish comparison pricing, as required by the Electricity Retail Code, deprives consumers of an opportunity to compare the individual plans on a like-with-like basis.”

“We are disappointed this is the second time CovaU has paid penalties in relation to its energy plans, and we will continue to monitor compliance with the Code and Australian Consumer Law by CovaU and other electricity providers.”

CovaU was penalised in 2019 for a similar incident where it was alleged the provider made misleading claims about its discounts on offer.

The latest infringement notices by the ACCC were in relation to the following CovaU plans:

  • Freedom Plus Online – Residential Essential Single (Essential Energy distribution network in NSW)
  • Freedom Plus Online – Residential Endeavour Single (Endeavour Energy distribution network in NSW)
  • Freedom Plus Solar – Residential SA Single (SA Power distribution network in SA)

CovaU has since admitted that in the same period of 2021 it published 79 plans without any reference to a comparison percentage. Here’s an example of a CovaU plan that was advertised on its website that breached the Code, as highlighted by the consumer watchdog.

Covau advertisement

Below is an example of how an energy retailer should be displaying plan information to consumers.

Energy reference price advertisement example

CovaU: Technical error responsible for lack of details on plan advertisements

Since the incident was reported to the ACCC, CovaU admitted it was at fault and has stated that a technical error was responsible.

A CovaU spokesperson said: “This was an oversight due to a technical error that occurred when we launched our new website. The reference price was missed however the problem was rectified as soon as it was pointed out to us. Regardless, it’s our responsibility to make sure all the regulations are up to date on our website.”


Image credits: M_Pixel_Studio/Shutterstock.com, ACCC

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