21 November, 2018
COTA Victoria (COTA) welcomes Labor’s energy announcement to strengthen protections for Victorian consumers, including banning door-to-door salespeople and telemarketing from selling energy plans.
COTA is the leading not-for-profit organisation representing the interests and rights of people aged 50+ in Victoria. COTA CEO Ronda Held said older people can be vulnerable to pressure sales techniques used to sign up to ‘energy deals’ that are not fair.
“Energy is an essential service and stronger consumer protections are critical in curbing energy retail practices that pressure vulnerable customers into dodgy deals through cold calling and door-to-door sales,” she said.
With this Saturday’s Victorian election there has been a raft of announcements from political parties to reduce energy costs for Victoria’s low-income and protect vulnerable consumers that may be ‘easy targets’ by sales people.
The Victorian Energy and Water Ombudsman most recent annual report shows there has been an 88 per cent rise in complaints on exploitative and underhand sales techniques by energy retailers. Labor’s Energy Fairness Plan proposes changes to the Energy Retail Code to ban telemarketers and door-to-door salespeople. The Code also provides rules on how electricity and gas retailers sell energy to Victorian customers.
Other recent energy announcements that benefit consumers include the Essential Services Commission increase in fines of up to $250,000 imposed on energy retailers for wrongful disconnections. Under Labor’s proposed plan, retailers will also face penalties of up to $1 million when they continually and wrongfully disconnect consumers.
“We support these penalties on retailers that know they are doing the wrong thing. Action against retailers on wrongful disconnection of vulnerable consumers acknowledges the critical nature of energy. For older people it is essential to have affordable and fair energy, and to sometimes increase this use of power during heatwaves in summer and cold snaps in winter. These changes will improve the energy marketplace for all Victorian Consumers,” Ms Held said.
Labor is also taking action on all eleven recommendations by the Independent Review of the Electricity and Gas retail Markets. This includes banning short-term discounts that result in consumers paying more over the longer term and penalising ‘loyal’ customers that are not active ‘shoppers’ and aren’t aware of the best prices available. Retailers will now have to advise consumers of the best energy offer available.
The Government has also extended its offer for a $50 bonus until 30 June next year, to encourage consumers to use its energy comparison website to find the best deal on their power bills.
With the growth of renewables and Labor’s plan to encourage solar energy uptake, COTA strongly encourages whoever forms government after this weekend’s election to implement constraints on solar panel retailers who are using similar direct sales techniques as the energy retailers.
“We need to build the capacity of consumers to understand their rights and what an affordable and quality solar panel product is,” Ms Held said.
“We are concerned with recent reports on solar panel companies employing similar direct sales techniques to that of the energy retailers. The Victorian Government needs to intervene and demand better industry practices, or the pressure sales techniques that result in older consumers purchasing poor quality and expensive solar panels will continue to rise.”
COTA CEO Ronda Held 0450 785 437
COTA Senior Policy Officer Donna Swan 0419 896 350
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