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Consumer watchdog to probe power companies amid market meltdown

·2-min read
power point
The ACCC will investigate concerns about anti-competitive behaviour (Source: Getty)

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has agreed to investigate concerns about anti-competitive behaviour in the energy markets.

Treasurer Jim Chalmers wrote to the consumer watchdog earlier this month calling for a probe into the electricity and gas markets to “ensure these markets are working properly”.

“I also expect that the ACCC will investigate any concerns about anti-competitive or false and misleading conduct in these markets and take appropriate action,” Chlamers wrote.

ACCC chair Gina Cass-Gottlieb said the regulator was working alongside the Australian Energy Regulator to monitor the market and to act on anti-competitive behaviour.

“Under direction from the Federal Government, we will use our full information-gathering powers to provide greater transparency around the factors influencing electricity and gas prices, including profits and margins, from a wide range of energy companies.” Cass-Gottlieb said.

Energy prices through the roof

The regulator’s latest electricity-markets report found wholesale prices “rose significantly” during the first two weeks of June, to roughly five times higher than the same time last year.

“There is no doubt that international factors, such as the war in Ukraine, have heavily impacted the global gas supply and prices,” Cass-Gottlieb said.

“A cold start to winter and a reliance on ageing coal-fired power stations amplified challenges already facing the Australian energy market.”

Last week, the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) suspended the National Electricity Market for the first time in its history.

Professor Ariel Liebman, director at the Monash Energy Institute, said the decision to suspend the market was likely in part triggered by AEMO’s concern that generators were not providing the correct information about what they were able to generate, which was leaving the system vulnerable to blackouts.

What energy customers can do

Cass-Gottlieb said energy customers nervous about higher energy bills should compare their current plan and consider switching to a better deal.

Energy customers can use the Federal Government’s Energy Made Easy site and the Victorian Energy Compare site in Victoria to compare their energy deals.

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