- Annual Report 2019-20
Annual Report 2019-20Published 23 November 2020
From the chairperson
In last year’s report I expressed my confidence that the commission was well positioned to embrace future challenges. As I reflect on the past year, I’m sure most would agree that the challenges of 2019–2020 have indeed been extraordinary.
As we adapted by moving online to do our work, what became clear to us was that our role, promoting the long-term interests of Victorians in relation to the price, quality and reliability of essential services, has never been more important.
And despite the many challenges we’ve all faced, on a personal note I am very proud of what we’ve been able to achieve in my first year as chairperson of the commission.
The way in which the commission has embraced those challenges and pulled together to remain focused on achieving positive outcomes for Victorians has been richly rewarding.
We have been delivering in tangible ways that make a difference for Victorians. We are more connected to the community we serve and the industries we regulate. And we have boosted enforcement activity to maximise the effectiveness of our regulatory frameworks.
In 2019–20, we put a cap on what you could be charged if you were late with an energy bill and made rules requiring energy retailers to tell you if you’re on their best deal for you.
Increased protections for energy customers requiring life support equipment were introduced along with improved technical codes for distribution businesses.
We set a fair price for electricity for those who don’t want to or can’t engage in the market through the Victorian default offer and put an end to bait and switch energy deals.
Water bills in the regions were kept at or lower than inflation through our pricing decisions and we set a limit on how much taxis can charge you for using cards or other non-cash payment methods.
We are more connected than ever
We strengthened our relationships with other key bodies, including the Australian Energy Regulator, Consumer Affairs Victoria and the Energy and Water Ombudsman of Victoria to increase our ability to act together to promote consumer interests.
Virtual roundtables with consumer advocates and community service providers, as well as the businesses we regulate, helped us understand the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on households and small businesses, and tailor our responses accordingly.
Our response to the pandemic needed to be timely but well-informed, decisive and practical, so we also started collecting more timely data from energy and water businesses in April.
We responded by updating our energy rules so small businesses had access to hardship support and our water rules were aligned to the national standard.
Our commitment to transparency and openness
We published a range of reports to demonstrate our commitment to transparency and show the impact of our work.
Our reports showed all Victorian councils complied with the state’s rate cap or a variation approved by us. We also reported on disconnections and energy prices falling, and surveys showing increasing satisfaction with water businesses.
Our annual Victorian Energy Upgrades report shows the biggest energy efficiency program in Australia continues to grow, passing 60 million tonnes of abatement after 11 years of helping Victorians lower their energy costs.
Another report confirmed victims of family violence are getting better support from water businesses after our work building capability and introducing new rules following the royal commission.
Enforcement penalties topped $2 million
2019–20 was also the year we took a huge step in our enforcement capability with a second full-time commissioner, barrister and former ACCC commissioner Sitesh Bhojani joining us.
During the year, we took action against four energy retailers for various breaches of the energy rules resulting in penalties of over $2 million being paid as well as another $533,000 being returned to customers by energy businesses.
I was very pleased to welcome another female to the decision table with economist and policy specialist Rebecca Billings joining Simon Corden on our team.
This team brings an extraordinary diversity of professional and personal experience that I feel serves the people of Victoria well.
Thank you to my fellow commissioners for your invaluable perspectives and enduring dedication to reaching decisions as an independent economic regulator that promotes the long term interests of Victorian consumers.
I would also like to take this opportunity to acknowledge and thank the entire team at the commission. Led by John Hamill and his executive team, our staff have the highest standards of professionalism, resilience and an enduring commitment to make a real difference that is a joy to witness.
It has been an honour to lead the commission through this year and while we’re going through challenging times, I’m looking forward to the next and the opportunities it presents.
I am confident we will continue to strive to deliver on our promise to promote the interests of all Victorians.
Commissioner and chairperson