EnergyAustralia has revealed plans to cut the power bills of concession-card holders on its most expensive tariffs through automatic discounts.
Australia’s third biggest energy retailer says that eligible concession-card customers on default or standing offer tariffs will receive 15% off electricity and natural gas usage charges, regardless of where they live.
The ongoing discount will be applied automatically from 1 January 2019 and will mean that eligible customers paying the highest prices – including pensioners, veterans and healthcare-card holders – will save an average $270 a year on their electricity usage and $145 on gas, the retailer says.
The initiative comes at a time when standard contract prices are set to be reduced thanks to the introduction of a new Default Market Offer for electricity customers who do not actively look to find a better deal.
The new EnergyAustralia discounts are in addition to existing state government concession payments.
EnergyAustralia Chief Customer Officer, Chris Ryan, acknowledged that customers on expensive default electricity rates have been hit hard by recent price increases.
“Since 2015 we’ve helped more than 200,000 households on standing offers find lower-priced plans. But there’s more to be done. Around 10 per cent of our customers are still on basic, full-price rates and it’s costing them a lot of money,” he said.
“We’ll continue to encourage these customers to switch to a better EnergyAustralia deal. As we do that, we’ll provide our concession customers, including pensioners, veterans and healthcare-card holders, who aren’t already on a market offer with a 15 per cent discount – and they don’t need to do anything to get it.”
The announcement comes quickly on the back of a similar move from AGL, which will provide discounts of up to 10% for all customers on standard tariffs, resulting in savings of as much as $180 a year. Discounts vary between states.
AGL said the move will bring standing offer customers “more in line” with the majority of its customers who are already on discounted market offers.
Cutting costs for vulnerable customers
In August, EnergyAustralia announced it would make sure customers in its hardship program and on default tariffs would receive a rate equivalent to the company’s best generally-available in-market offer.
EnergyAustralia says that, so far in 2018, it has committed to invest more than $80 million in initiatives to ease the pressure on household energy bills, but suggested that regulations limit what it can do for some households.
“Default tariffs are best used as a short-term safety net only, so that no one is left without power while they find a competitive deal. However, EnergyAustralia cannot switch customers to market offers without first getting their consent,” the company said in a statement.
Mr Ryan encouraged EnergyAustralia customers still on default tariffs to move to one of the company’s cheaper market plans. He also agreed with the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission (ACCC) that deregulation of the energy system over the past few decades should not only benefit highly engaged customers.
“Customers prepared to spend time finding a better deal should be rewarded. But it is not fair that those who can’t protect themselves are so much worse off,” he said. “Some people choose not to shop around – that is their right – while for others it’s just too confusing to compare energy prices across retailers.”