NSW energy reforms

New South Wales customers are likely to be looking forward to a reprieve from increasingly high electricity prices, with new measures protecting customers from the worst of price shocks.

Minister for resources and energy Gary Gray has welcomed the implementation of the National Energy Customer Framework (NECF). This strengthens consumer rights and will give customers the ability to compare offers from gas and electricity providers.

"This is an important energy reform for New South Wales. The NECF will provide stronger protection for New South Wales customers, as well as flexible payment options for customers facing financial hardship," said Mr Gray.

Some of the ways in which the NECF will protect energy consumers is through requiring retailers to include model terms and conditions in their contracts, assisting residential customers experiencing long-term payment hardship, and providing for limitations on disconnections.

As well as this, retailers will have to provide more information about energy pricing on customer energy bills.

Extensive consultation was undertaken with energy retailers, distributors and consumer groups, as the state, federal and territory governments worked together to develop the NECF, through the Standing Council on Energy and Resources (SCER).

The SCER is the body responsible for pursuing priority issues of national significance relating to energy and resources, with a particular focus on matters relating to reform.

Mr Gray also acknowledged the importance of electricity comparison services in helping customers to access the best possible deal for their household utilities.

In Tasmania, the Australian Capital Territory and South Australia the NCEF has already been introduced, with Queensland due to adopt the framework in early to mid 2014.

Nationally, on July 1 Mr Gray announced the Australian Energy Regulator's (AER) new creation - the Consumer Challenge Panel.

This panel is made up of 13 industry and consumer experts, with the aim of ensuring that the interests of consumers are considered whenever the independently operated AER makes a decision on changes to energy network costs.

"For too long, the decisions made about energy network costs, which are ultimately passed on to consumers, have been made without the voices of consumers being heard," said minister for competition policy and consumer affairs, David Bradbury.

These moves to put consumer interest at the forefront of electricity and gas prices will be a welcome relief for those Australians struggling with household expenses.

Posted by Charlie Moore