Interviewer: So Ron today we're talking about some changes to the Energy Retail Code and the responsibilities that retailers have to customers. So can you tell us what is it you're trying to do with these reforms?
Ron Ben-David: This is a once-in-a-decade reform aimed at untangling the confusing maze of offers that customers face when they're trying to work out if they can get a better energy deal. Our reforms are about making retailers responsible. Responsible for looking after their customers by helping them find the deal that best suits them. We're looking to put responsibility back where it belongs - with the energy companies. It's about responsibility. That's why we call it responsibility based regulation.
Interviewer: So, from mid-2019 what is it the energy companies will have to do differently?
Ron Ben-David: The first reform we're taking will be to have retailers put a message on their bills telling customers whether they have a cheaper deal. Think of this message as a declaration from the retailer about how well they are looking after the customer. It's like this: if you get one of these messages telling you that you could save money - maybe hundreds of dollars - by switching to another deal, then you should be asking, 'Why didn't my retailer already have me on that deal? Do they seriously want me as their customer?'
Interviewer: And what else?
Ron Ben-David: If you're talking to an energy retailer - no matter who called who - the retailer will now have an obligation to find the best deal they have for you. In other words, they have to provide you with helpful advice rather than just making a sale. And thirdly, retailers will be required to notify customers at least five business days in advance of any price changes. This means no more sneaky price increases when no one's looking.
Interviewer: So the fourth change is that all prices will now have to include GST. Why?
Ron Ben-David: We're requiring all prices to be quoted with GST included always. This will stop those confusing sales tactics with some retailers quote with GST and some quote without it, making it hard for customers to know what's going on.
Interviewer: There's been a lot of talk about the community losing faith in the energy companies, but isn't the real problem that competition simply hasn't worked?
Ron Ben-David: There have been enough reports now showing that customers have lost trust and confidence in the retail energy market. One of the main factors for this loss of trust has been the complex array of energy deals that customers are supposed to navigate when they go into the market looking for a better deal. Our reforms are going to hold energy companies responsible for rebuilding customer trust, by requiring them to do more to help customers understand, compare and switch energy plans.
Interviewer: And what evidence is there that people aren't being served by their energy companies?
Ron Ben-David: When people can't work out how to compare offers; when someone on a 30 percent discount is paying the same as someone else on a 5 percent discount; or if you only get a better deal if you threaten to leave your retailer - it's pretty obvious we aren't being well served by the energy companies.
Interviewer: And Ron, what is the time frame for these changes?
Ron Ben-David: These changes will come into effect on the 1st of July, 2019.