Commission chairperson Kate Symons says consumer voices, protections and outcomes remained top of mind for the commission in delivering its regulatory program last financial year.
'When I reflect on our work in 2022–23 to deliver better essential services for Victorian communities, three key aspects come to mind – strong stakeholder relationships, a commitment to continual improvement, and effective action,' said Commissioner Symons.
'We leaned into these areas as we reviewed significant pricing decisions across the energy, water and transport sectors, and took strong compliance and enforcement actions to protect Victorian consumers and hold regulated businesses to account.'
The commission sought diverse stakeholder feedback to inform its 2022–23 regulatory work program and decisions. This included engaging with stakeholders to determine: the water prices to apply for a five-year period for 14 of Victoria’s water businesses; the 2023–24 Victorian Default Offer; the 2023–24 minimum feed-in tariff; and maximum fares for unbooked taxis. The commission also sought stakeholder input as part of reviewing the codes, standards and provisions that regulated essential services businesses must adhere to in Victoria.
The commission took action where there was evidence that regulated businesses had fallen short of their obligations to consumers. It issued 74 penalty notices totalling $1.65 million to six energy businesses and accepted enforceable undertakings from a further five energy businesses. This action followed alleged breaches of consumer protections relating to the energy payment difficulty framework, life-support services obligations, planned interruption notifications, Victorian Default Offer rates, wrongful disconnections and customer consent around energy contracts.
The commission also accepted an enforceable undertaking from a water business after it allegedly failed to uphold critical protections in place to support customers affected by family violence.
'Supporting Victorians experiencing vulnerability to have equitable access to essential services is an enduring priority for the commission,' said Commissioner Symons. 'With the support of the Assistant Treasurer’s 2022 ministerial statement of expectations, we continued to implement our three-year Getting to fair strategy to facilitate responsive, inclusive and accessible essential services for consumers experiencing vulnerability.'
The commission also upheld consumer protections and program rules to support more than half a million Victorian homes and businesses to access energy savings upgrades through the Victorian Energy Upgrades program.
'Growing cost of living pressures for many in our community has highlighted the importance and urgency of our work to promote the long-term interest of all Victorians with respect to the price, quality and reliability of essential services,' said Commissioner Symons.
'I acknowledge the important contributions of government, industry, and community services and consumer groups to our work this past year. As we head into 2024, which will mark our 30th year as Victoria’s independent economic regulator, I look forward to continuing this vital collaboration.'