1 July 2013

Government welcomes establishment of the Consumer Challenge Panel

Consumers will be front and centre of decisions on energy network costs with the establishment of the Australian Energy Regulator's new Consumer Challenge Panel, said Minister for Resources, Gary Gray, and Minister for Competition Policy and Consumer Affairs, David Bradbury.

The Consumer Challenge Panel is made up of 13 industry and consumer experts and will make sure that the interests of consumers are considered whenever the independent Australian Energy Regulator makes a decision on changes to energy network costs.

"The gold-plating of energy networks over the last five years has seen exponential increases in electricity bills for households," said Mr Gray.

"The Government welcomes the establishment of the Consumer Challenge Panel, which was a key component of the Council of Australian Governments' (COAG) energy market reform package that was agreed to last year.

"The COAG reforms are designed to put downward pressure on electricity prices in the long-term and ensure that regulatory frameworks are better able to take into account consumer views."

"For too long, the decisions made about energy network costs, which are ultimately passed on to consumers, have been made without the voices of consumers being heard," said Mr Bradbury.

"The panel members have significant local and international expertise in economic regulation, energy networks and consumer representation.

"This new panel will make sure that there are people who not only understand how these decisions are made but also understand the impacts of higher energy network costs on households and businesses.

Funding for the establishment of the Panel was provided by the Commonwealth as part of the Government's commitment of an additional $23.2 million over the next four years to expand the functions and capabilities of the AER.

For more information on the Consumer Challenge Panel, go to the Australian Energy Regulator's website.