Power companies less trusted than banks

Karen Sweeney
A national energy report claims Australians trust their banks more than their power retailers

Australians believe their banks and internet providers are giving them better value for money than their electricity companies.

The latest review of retail energy competition has blamed confusing energy offers and higher prices for confidence plummeting.

Trust in the sector is at just 39 per cent, down from 50 per cent last year.

The report produced by the Australian Energy Market Commission says the closure of the Northern and Hazelwood generators, which raised prices, is in part at fault.

Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg says people are finding bills too complex and that discounts hard to compare and highly conditional.

"And you only get a better deal from your energy retailer when you threaten to leave, so in fact the retailers are rewarding disloyalty instead of the loyalty of their long-term customers," he told ABC radio.

He admitted hyper-partisanship in parliament had delivered policy uncertainty, which retailers say contributes to higher prices, but says the government has taken steps to bring costs down including stopping coal-fired power stations closing without sufficient notice.

Senior Labor MP Anthony Albanese said policy uncertainty over five years had led to a lack of investment in renewables, driving prices higher.

"They have had a war on renewables. What that led to was uncertainty, a lack of investment and higher prices as well as higher emissions," he told the Nine Network.

An AEMC customer survey in April found just 45 per cent of customers felt positive they were getting value for money from their electricity provider.

"While prices are now flatter or falling, we are disappointed to see retailers are still not doing enough to help their customers," AEMC chairman John Pierce said.

That compared to positive results of 57 per cent for gas services, 61 per cent for internet services and 70 per cent for banks.

Mr Pierce believes there's nothing stopping retailers being more innovative or cost competitive, but they've been slow to act and consumers who can afford it are increasingly turning to do-it-yourself power alternatives like rooftop solar panels.

Almost two million households are using residential solar power sources - a number he expects will continue to rise.

The coalition government has moved to force energy retailers to notify customers when they're on expensive deals and advise them of cheaper alternatives.