The Energy Fairness Plan benefits Victorians by:

  • making energy retail markets simpler and fairer
  • cutting the cost of energy for Victorian households and small businesses
  • ensuring companies that do the wrong thing face the consequences.

The Energy Fairness Plan includes a range of reforms to energy retail pricing and market practices. The reforms build on the Victorian Government’s commitment to implement all of the recommendations from the Independent Review of the Electricity & Gas Retail Markets in Victoria. These reforms also strengthen the Essential Services Commission’s enforcement powers.

Implementing the Energy Fairness Plan

The Energy Fairness Plan was announced in 2018. Since then, several key reforms have been delivered.

Key reforms
  • Required retailers to inform customers on their bill of the ‘best offer’ available from their retailer for their circumstances, at least once every 3 months for electricity bills and once every 4 months for gas bills.
  • Required retailers to provide simple and clear information about energy plans, including on standardised fact sheets.
  • Appointed a new Commissioner with a focus on litigation and enforcement to the Essential Services Commission.
  • Reduced the pressure of price increases over the end-of-year holiday period by moving the date on when electricity and gas network prices change from 1 January to 1 July each year.
  • Reduced the period for which retailers can recover undercharged energy consumption from 9 to 4 months.

The Victorian Government has progressed additional reforms under the Energy Fairness Plan through the Energy Legislation Amendment (Energy Fairness) Act 2021. These reforms include:

Consumer protections
  • Banned door-to-door sales and cold-calling by energy retailers, to protect households from being pressured into signing up for energy plans unsuitable for their circumstances.
  • Banned ‘win-back’ and ‘save’ offers by energy retailers, to prevent retailers from only inducing their customers to remain when they learn that customers intend to switch to another retailer.
  • Introduced criminal penalties of up to $1 million for:
    • licensees who knowingly provide false or misleading information to the Essential Services Commission
    • energy retailers and exempt electricity and gas sellers who wrongfully disconnect customers knowingly or recklessly or disconnect households in a way that endangers customers on life support equipment.
  • Other reforms committed to under the Energy Fairness Plan have been delivered including:
    • an overhaul of the enforcement framework under which the ESC operates, with a new civil penalty framework and higher court-ordered penalties available up to a maximum of $10 million
    • establishing a ‘Litigation Fighting Fund’ to fund litigation and enforcement action
    • strengthening the ESC’s information-gathering and investigatory powers, including the power to order witnesses to verbally answer questions from the ESC.

Where can I get help?

Are you having trouble paying your energy bills?

The Essential Services Commission and Energy Info Hub websites have information on how to get help with your energy bills.

What can I do if I think my retailer has done the wrong thing?

If you have an issue with your energy supply, contact your energy retailer and ask for help.

If you are not satisfied with your retailer’s response, you can also contact the Energy and Water Ombudsman (Victoria) (EWOV).

EWOV is a free, independent dispute resolution service for energy and water issues. You can contact EWOV at ewovinfo@ewov.com.au or on 1800 500 509 (free call).

If you would like to report that your retailer may have broken the energy rules, you can contact Victoria’s independent regulator, the Essential Services Commission, via online complaint form or on 1300 664 969. For assistance with individual complaints, contact EWOV.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

The Energy Legislation Amendment (Energy Fairness) Act 2021 (the Act) received Royal Assent on 10 August 2021.

The Act makes amendments to the Electricity Industry Act 2000, the Gas Industry Act 2001 and the Essential Services Commission Act 2001 to implement the Energy Fairness Plan announced by the Victorian Government in November 2018.

The provisions of the Act that relate to banning unsolicited sales, including prohibition on door-to-door sales and cold-calling, and a prohibition on save and win-back offers (Part 2, Division 1), have been proclaimed and will commence on 31 December 2021.

The remaining provisions of the Act, including the criminal penalties of up to $1 million for wrongful disconnection and offences relating to the provision of false and misleading information to the Essential Services Commission (ESC) (Part 2, Division 2 and Division 3), are anticipated to be proclaimed in the first quarter of 2022. This timing aligns with the Essential Services Commission’s (ESC’s) Energy Retail Code being remade into a Code of Practice.

The ESC has consulted on its Energy Retail Code of Practice and a final decision and timing for commencement was published in December 2021. Industry consultation has been extended until 17 January 2022.  The Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning is coordinating with the ESC so that commencement timing for the Energy Retail Code of Practice and remaining provisions of the Act align.

Once confirmed, the Department will provide an update to stakeholders on the timing for the remaining provisions of the Act.

On 25 October 2021, Part 1, Division 4 of Part 2 and Division 4 of Part 3 commenced, removing the requirements for energy retailers to publish tariffs in the Government Gazette when these tariffs are fixed under an Order in Council or determined under a price determination.

The Act, alongside the Essential Services Commission (Compliance and Enforcement Powers) Amendment Act 2021, delivers reforms committed to under the Victorian Government’s Energy Fairness Plan released in November 2018.

The Essential Services Commission (Compliance and Enforcement Powers) Amendment Act 2021, led by the Department of Treasury and Finance, commenced operation on 1 December 2021.

Both Acts can be accessed via the Victorian Legislation website.

The Victorian Default Offer (VDO) is a simple and fair electricity price that is set annually by the Essential Services Commission, not energy companies. The VDO is established under Victorian electricity legislation as a standing offer.

It provides Victorian residential and small business consumers with access to a fair electricity deal even if they are unable or unwilling to engage in the retail market.

A standing offer (or standard contract) is an energy contract that customers may be automatically placed on if they do not actively choose an energy contract available in the energy retail market (known as a market offer). Standing offers may cost more than market offers but include basic terms to protect customers in case they do not or cannot engage in the market.

Since 1 July 2019, electricity standing offers have been replaced by VDO prices set by the Essential Services Commission.

A market offer (or market contract) is an energy contract where the energy retailer has some flexibility to set their own contract terms. Market offers have different contract terms, discounts, incentives and tariff structures to make them competitive in the energy retail market.

Customers on market offers still have important protections, but special terms and conditions might apply. Retailers must inform customers about any special contract terms when the customer signs up.

The energy retail market is where energy businesses sell energy offers to customers. Customers can choose to buy their gas and electricity under a range of different offers, which have different prices and conditions. Customers can compare all generally available energy offers on the Victorian Government’s free and independent energy comparison site, Victorian Energy Compare.

A ‘win-back’ is an unsolicited approach from an energy retailer to a former customer, after the retailer learns that the customer has switched to another retailer. The former retailer will offer the customer a better deal to entice the customer to return. This offer typically would not have been made available to the former customer if they had not switched retailer.

A ‘save’ is an unsolicited approach from an energy retailer to a current customer, after the retailer learns that the customer is intending to switch retailer, but the switch has not yet been completed.  The retailer will offer the customer a better deal to entice the customer to not switch. This offer typically would not have been made available to the customer if they had not signalled their intention to switch.

The banning of ‘win-backs’ and ‘saves’ is expected to lower the costs that retailers incur, and pass on to customers, in attracting and retaining new customers. The reforms will also encourage retailers to focus on satisfying existing customers before the point at which they decide to switch.

The Government’s priority is protecting consumers from sales channels that often involve misleading and high-pressure sales tactics.

The Government is looking at better ways to encourage customers to engage in the market to find the best offer available to them – for example, by using the Victorian Energy Compare website and the new $250 Power Saving Bonus for eligible customers.

The ‘best offer’ and clear advice reforms are also helping consumers to engage with the market.

Additionally, the introduction of the Victorian Default Offer safeguards vulnerable customers who do not, or cannot, engage in the market.

The Energy and Water Ombudsman (Victoria) (EWOV) has previously reported about customers complaining of misleading and high-pressure sales tactics attributed to both door-to-door sales and unsolicited telemarketing.

Information from Consumer Action Law Centre, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) and the Essential Services Commission also suggests that these sales channels are associated with non-compliant or otherwise harmful conduct, such as customers being misled about prices, and customers being signed on to energy contracts without their explicit informed consent.

The ban on door-to-door sales and unsolicited telemarketing does not apply to small business customers. There is little evidence of significant harm to small business customers compared to residential customers from these sales.

The Essential Services Commission (ESC) is Victoria’s independent regulator for the electricity, gas, water, local government and transport sectors. The ESC has enforcement powers to ensure energy retailers are complying with the rules. Enforcement powers include application to a court for the issuing of a civil penalty, penalty notices (fines), enforceable orders and undertakings, and revoking and suspending of business licenses.

The $1 million criminal penalties apply to energy retailers and exempt electricity and gas sellers who wrongfully disconnect customers knowingly or recklessly or disconnect households in a way that endangers customers on life support equipment. The high criminal penalty reflects the potential life-threatening consequences of these kinds of disconnections.

In order to increase retailer compliance and provide greater protection for consumers, the Essential Services Commission (Compliance and Enforcement Powers) Amendment Act 2021 significantly increases civil penalties that apply to energy retailers. Strong penalties are necessary to deter retailers from doing the wrong thing. This is expected to promote better industry practices and increase customer confidence and trust in the energy market.

Previously, if an energy retailer made a mistake and undercharged a residential or small business customer over a long period of time, the retailer could make the customer pay back the amount from the previous nine months. By changing the back-billing limit to 4 months, customers are less likely to receive a large bill for a retailer’s error. The reform also encourages retailers to ensure their billing processes are correct.

Page last updated: 13/01/22