Giving consumers more choice and control

The price of energy is one of the most important inputs to the economy and it’s important to develop a competitive market for new energy services so consumers have more choices in managing their energy bills.

We understand the community as a whole is very committed to exploring new technologies and renewable options. Our intention is not to hold this back, but to ensure consumers have the choices they want without putting costs burdens on households and the economy that could be easily avoided with better planning.

Above all our rules and reviews work to protect consumers, especially the most vulnerable, as the system changes.

New rules and reviews to improve outcomes for consumers as the system transforms

Introducing maximum timeframes for meter installations – making retailers provide customers with new smart meters within a set timeframe. Customers typically need a new ‘smart’ meter when they install solar panels or when their old meter needs replacing. 

Strengthening protections for customers in hardship – new obligations on retailers to implement effective hardship policies to help customers who are having difficulty paying their bills. 

Estimated meter reads – making retailers accept meter reads provided by customers who think their estimated electricity or gas bill is wrong. 

Advance notice of price changes – requiring energy retailers to tell customers about any price increases before they happen, and provide information on how to shop around for a better deal. 

Advance warnings to shop around before energy discounts finish - energy retailers must notify their electricity and gas customers when benefits in their contract, such as a discount, are about to end or change. 

Stopping electricity discounting that can leave consumers worse off – energy retailers are prohibited from offering energy deals deliberately designed to confuse customers with high base rates to make so-called discounts appear bigger than they actually are. 

Strengthening protections for customers requiring life support equipment – builds on current rules to strengthen protections for customers that have a person requiring life support equipment residing at their premises.

Retail competition review – our annual retail competition reviews identify ways to improve consumer outcomes in retail energy markets. Our 2018 review includes analysis of solar opportunities and hardship schemes, and how to raise customer awareness of options to manage energy bills.

Review of regulatory arrangements for embedded networks – In January 2019 we published a comprehensive package of law and rule changes to strengthen protections and improve access to competitive offers for embedded network customers. A final report is due in May 2019. This follows our 2017 review of the protections for the expanding number of electricity customers who live and work in embedded networks like green commercial precincts and apartment blocks, shopping centres and caravan parks. These customers purchase power from an embedded network provider instead of buying direct from electricity retailers. The review found that many embedded network customers are not receiving better prices and are less able to change supplier if they are unhappy. 

Review of regulatory arrangements for stand-alone power systems - In August 2018 we started a review into the regulatory frameworks for stand-alone power systems, including microgrids with multiple customers like remote communities, mining towns and island resorts. We will consider changes needed to the national electricity framework to enable off-grid solutions that reduce costs and protect consumers. In December 2018 we published a draft report that sets out the Commission’s emerging thinking and draft recommendations to enable distribution businesses to provide stand-alone power systems to their existing customers where it is economically efficient, for example in remote locations, while maintaining appropriate consumer protections and service standards.

Residential electricity price trends - The AEMC reports annually on price trends, looking at what is driving changes in household electricity bills. Understanding these drivers can help identify appropriate policies that enable the ongoing supply of reliable, secure energy at the best price for consumers.The 2018 Price Trends report was published in December.

Also see our consumer protection action plan.

Power of Choice reforms: laying the foundations for consumer participation

The AEMC has been working for several years on a series of reforms to make it easier for customers to engage in the energy market, as set out in the AEMC's Power of Choice review. These reforms include:

Cost-reflective pricing

From 2017, as a result of the AEMC's new distribution pricing rules, the prices paid by households and businesses will better reflect the different ways they use electricity and the costs of providing it to them. The new rules are designed to give consumers the option of reducing their peak demand to save money, or continuing to use electricity at those times when the value they place on that use outweighs the costs.

Competition in metering 

The AEMC’s 2015 Competition in metering reforms removed the networks’ effective metering monopoly – giving consumers more opportunities to access a wider range of electricity services.

The information and services available through advanced metering can make it quicker for consumers to switch retailers, allow them to decide how often they want to be billed, and provide them with better information about how they can change their electricity use to save money. Consumers can also benefit from more accurate meter reads.

These reforms also underpin innovation in energy retail markets so consumers can choose from a broader range of technologies, products and services to meet their specific energy needs.

The new arrangements took effect on 1 December 2017. 

Rules to change processes that support Competition in metering include:

Review of electricity customer switching

In 2017 we made a rule to improve the accuracy of the customer transfer process by placing new obligations on electricity and gas retailers to resolve transfers that happen without customer consent.

Improving demand side participation information provided to AEMO

In 2015 the AEMC made a rule to enable AEMO to obtain better information on demand side participation information from electricity market participants to inform its forecasts.

Customer access to information about their energy consumption

In 2014 the AEMC made a rule change to make it easier for customers to access their electricity consumption data from their retailer or distributor in an understandable format and in a timely manner. The new rule is designed to improve consumers’ awareness of their patterns of electricity use and enable customers to make more informed choices about electricity products and services.