South Australia strengthens energy customer protection

29/11/2012

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New consumer laws passed Parliament today, strengthening South Australians' access to electricity and gas and creating more competitive energy markets.

The legislation allows South Australia to participate in the National Energy Customer Framework's stronger consumer protections and simpler regulatory system.

Minister for Minerals Resources and Energy Tom Koutsantonis says the framework will boost competition in electricity and gas markets and provide services to assist customers find the best available energy price.

"This Government very much appreciates the pressure on family budgets from rising power bills and is constantly looking for ways to ease the cost of living," he said.

"The national framework introduces protections to ensure South Australians, including those experiencing financial hardship, can access essential energy services on reasonable terms.

"Rules will ensure customers receive comprehensive information before entering into a contract and, in turn, have greater confidence in their dealings with energy companies.

"Under the new laws, customers can be confident that their rights are protected no matter what contract they choose.

"All companies will now be required to establish consumer hardship policies to help customers retain access to essential energy services.

"While some retailers currently offer hardship policies, making this mandatory across all retailers creates greater protection for all consumers.

"Customers facing difficulties paying energy bills will be able to contact their retailer for access to a flexible payment plan and more information on how to avoid disconnection."

Once the framework comes into effect, consumers will be able to compare South Australian retail offers by using the Energy Made Easy website provided by the Australian Energy Regulator.

Mr Koutsantonis says the consumer framework is the latest in a range of services to ensure residents and businesses find the best electricity retailer to suit their needs and minimise their power bills.