Alexandra Smith August 09, 2012
Talks between the State government and federal Energy Minister have been "very positive" ... NSW Energy Minister, Chris Hartcher. Photo: David Mariuz
CONSUMERS in NSW cannot use an independent national website to find the cheapest electricity deals because the state government wanted to force retailers to publish prominent warnings on bills about the costs of the carbon tax.
The consumer group Choice and the Australian Council of Social Service have accused the states of putting ''political squabbles'' before consumers by not signing up to a national energy customer framework.
Victoria, Queensland and South Australia have also not signed up to the framework, which started on July 1 after six years of negotiations. One of the key components of the framework is the price comparison website.
Instead, since July 1 retailers in NSW have been required to publish the warning: ''NSW Govt estimates that Federal carbon tax and green energy schemes add about $315 a year to a typical 7 megawatt household bill'' on all power bills.
The head of campaign at Choice, Matt Levey, said the decision not to sign up to the national framework prevented consumers from finding the best deals for their soaring power bills.
"It is farcical that at a time when consumers are being bombarded with increasingly loud and complex energy marketing, what would have been an excellent national comparison website is more like a shell," Mr Levey said.
"We all support better information about price increases on consumer bills, but junking a six-year national framework of consumer protections to bombard households with information about the carbon tax is not a great outcome.''
The chief executive of the Australian Council of Social Service, Cassandra Goldie, said it was a ''triumph of petty politics over national reform leaving the real potential for disadvantage and confusion for consumers.''
In a speech this week, the Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, urged the states to sign up to the national energy customer framework, which would give their taxpayers access to the only national independent price comparison website.
NSW has enacted the national legislation but does not plan to make it effective until January 1 next year.
A spokeswoman for the NSW Energy Minister, Chris Hartcher, said the government planned to sign up to the framework but confirmed it would not be able to enforce the warnings on bills if it had been part of it from the July 1 start date.
Mr Hartcher said the state government had been in talks with the federal Energy Minister, Martin Ferguson, about making improvements to the framework, including giving customers the right to switch retailers without paying fees if the terms of the contract were amended.
''These discussions with Minister Ferguson's office have been very positive and were
not reflected in the Prime Minister's speech. We are also in discussions with the Commonwealth about maintaining the ability to include the carbon tax wording on the power bills,'' Mr Hartcher said.