Draft Better Bills Guideline

COTA Australia recently submitted its response to the Australian Energy Regulator’s (AER) Draft Better Bills Guideline consultation.  Again, we thank our Energy Advocates for their determined effort to ensure energy customers’ views are conveyed effectively and influence the actions of the nation’s energy regulator.

The draft Better Bills Guideline was released for consultation late in December 2021. The Guideline’s purpose is to facilitate retailers to prepare and issue bills that will make it easy for customers to understand and engage with billing information. It is the result of the Australian Energy Market Commission’s (AEMC) final rule (18 March 2021) requiring the AER to publish a mandatory billing guideline by April 2022.

Our submission welcomes the guideline, and the business requirements it will establish for energy retailers in billing energy customers – especially individual households and small businesses.  However, COTA Australia’s key contention is that the guideline would be strengthened if the AER were to endorse use of a prescriptive billing template. From the customer perspective, we see this as holding the potential to dramatically alter energy market stakeholder relationships.  We contend it would empower energy customers to be more actively engaged in the energy sector, as well as enhance their confidence to seek out better deals and calculatingly switch energy plans.

COTA Australia’s submission also argues for the move away from energy retailers offering customers a ‘better offer’.  Although we support the ‘better offer’ concept, we believe it is high time energy retailers shifted to providing each customer with a highly individualised best offer.

In summary, COTA Australia’s submission reinforces the importance of energy retailers’ communication being clear, transparent and consistent. We believe energy billing information should enable individual customers to determine what is in their own best interest. In our view, this is essential to building and maintaining a mutually beneficial relationship. Energy retailers would experience increased customer trust, confidence and knowledgeable energy market engagement. Pragmatically this would fast-track the energy sector to becoming more sustainably innovative in policy and practice.