The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has filed court proceedings against EnergyAustralia, the country’s third-largest energy retailer. The ACCC alleges that EnergyAustralia failed to inform customers of impending price changes and made false representations in annual cost estimates stated on the notices. The ACCC launched legal action at the Federal Court for EnergyAustralia’s alleged violation of the Electricity Retail Code between June 2022 and September 2022. According to the ACCC, the energy provider did not state the “lowest possible price” when sending price change notices to its consumers. ACCC Chair Gina Cass-Gottlieb emphasized the importance of accurate information from energy companies, especially with rising electricity prices and consumers seeking better deals.
The ACCC also alleges that EnergyAustralia violated the Australian Consumer Law by failing to state the lowest possible price and the percentage difference to the government’s reference price when the company published 27 electricity price offers on its website between July 2022 and September 2022. The lowest possible price is a mandatory estimate based on model usage and assumptions about meeting discount conditions. Retailers are required to state the difference between their offer and the benchmark price to allow consumers to compare offers from different energy providers. The ACCC states that non-compliance, particularly by a large company like EnergyAustralia, can distort the process of finding the best deal for consumers.
ACCC Chair Gina Cass-Gottlieb pointed out that the Electricity Retail Code was introduced to address the challenge of deciphering complex information in correspondence from energy companies. She emphasized that compliance with the code requirements on price offers is essential for consumers to make genuine like-for-like comparisons between different electricity plans. EnergyAustralia has no valid excuse for breaching these rules, as the code has been in effect for over four years. The ACCC is seeking penalties, declarations, costs, and other orders in the court proceedings.
In response to the allegations, EnergyAustralia issued an apology in a media statement, recognizing the importance of clear communication with its customers. EnergyAustralia chief customer officer Mark Brownfield acknowledged the concerns about the cost of living and expressed remorse to their customers. The company has been transparent with the ACCC about the identified issues and the significance it places on clear and transparent communications.
EnergyAustralia has a significant customer base, with approximately one million residential customers and 88,000 small business owners as of the first quarter of 2022-23. It holds the third position in size among energy retailers, behind AGL Energy and Origin Energy, with a residential market share of 15.1 percent and a commercial market share of 13.6 percent.