Not a basket case, but a fruit bowl - that's how the Victorian government has described the state's energy pricing structure, while announcing plans for an overhaul.
The Andrews Labor government has introduced a bill to force big power companies to give customers better energy deals, potentially saving households and small businesses hundreds of dollars a year.
“One of the key problems we’ve had for many years is that we compare apples with pears and bananas,” Energy Minister Lily D’Ambrosio told reporters.
“We’ve got a retail market with a business model that’s been based on confusing Victorian households.”
The laws, first flagged in October, will take effect by July 1 when 167,000 households on standing offers will automatically be moved to default prices, set by the Essential Services Commission.
Other customers can request a shift to the annually-reviewed default offer through their suppliers.
The default price will vary across the state.
Victorian Council of Social Services chief Emma King said companies had been “fleecing” customers for years.
“We’ve seen them acting in a really cavalier way and they’ve had so many opportunities to clean up their act and they haven’t done it,” she told reporters.
“For the first time, we’ll be able to compare apples with apples rather than apples with oranges and (customers will) know they are getting the best possible deal.”
But the Greens say the laws do not go far enough, calling for a state-owned renewable energy company.
The energy sector and opposition are also critical of the bill.
“The push to re-regulate energy prices will ultimately be to the detriment of the vast majority of households on cheaper market deals and will undermine retail competition,” Australian Energy Council chief executive Sarah McNamara said in a statement.
“The Australian Energy Market Commission urged caution when assessing default tariffs for federal and state energy ministers late last year. This was because of the risks it saw for competition and innovative market deals.”
Opposition energy spokesman Ryan Smith said the default price could push smaller retailers out of the market reducing competition and it was doubling up on federal policy.
“We’ve got a situation where the federal government’s trying to put in a default mechanism through the national energy market and we don’t want to be in a situation where there’s two default pricing regimes in Victoria,” he told reporters.