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ACCC to probe electricity market

Australia’s consumer watchdog has launched an inquiry into retail electricity pricing, as federal and state governments continue to grapple with the nation’s ongoing energy and gas crisis.

Australian Competition and Consumer Commission boss Rod Sims on March 27 said the watchdog had been directed by the Federal Government to immediately commence the inquiry.

“Electricity prices have nearly doubled on top of inflation in most parts of Australia over the last decade based on a variety of different factors,” Sims said.

“It will be important to understand and examine these different factors in each state and territory.”

He said the ACCC will also look at the structure of the retail industry, the nature of competition, the representation of prices to consumers and other factors influencing the price of energy.

“We enter this inquiry with an open mind and look forward to developing recommendations which can make a difference for Australian households and businesses,” he said.

The ACCC will work with energy agencies such as the Australian Energy Regulator and the Australian Energy Markets Commission during the review.

A preliminary report is expected by the end of September.

A final report is due by June 30, 2018.

The watchdog will distribute an Issues Paper on matters relevant to the inquiry, and will be calling for public submissions.

Sims said it would also conducting public and private hearings.

The ACCC has made a number of rulings in recent times related to the electricity retail market.

In 2015, Origin and two of its subsidiaries paid $325,000 in fines for alleged false or misleading representations.

Also in 2015, AGL South Australia paid $700,000, and offered refunds to customers totalling around $780,000, for allegedly making false or misleading representations about the level of discount residential consumers would receive.

The competition watchdog has also previously taken action against energy retailers for illegal door-to-door selling practices.

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