PRICE SHOCK: Keith Browne and his electricity meter. Picture: Michael Frogley
LIKE everyone else, Wagga retiree Keith Browne was looking forward to a fall in electricity prices, or at worst almost unchanged charges, with the abolition of the carbon tax last month.
So he received a massive jolt when he received a letter from his electricity retailer Sanctuary Energy telling him his tariff was leaping 28 per cent.
Mr Browne’s tariff per kilowatt hour was hiked from 31.11 cents to 39.88 cents, which will add hundreds of dollars onto his annual bill.
“I checked it three times, I thought 28 per cent, that can’t be right, surely,” Mr Browne said.
But it is right, much to Mr Browne’s shock and anger.
In a letter dated July 16, but received by Mr Browne on July 23, Tuggerah-based Sanctuary Energy blamed removal of electricity price regulation by the NSW Government from July 1 for the jump.
The company “linked” Mr Browne’s individual contract to its standard negotiated contract price for the rest of the contract term without prior notice or consultation.
The increase defies government predictions that deregulation will allow customers on a regulated price to “share in the benefits of increased competition, better offers and more control over the price they pay” (NSW Resources and Energy facts sheet).
Mr Browne rang Sanctuary Energy’s customer service number to complain.
“They said this is a new thing for us and we don’t know how to deal with it; send us an email and we will pass it on to management to deal with,” Mr Browne said.
He sent the email and as of Friday was not aware of a response.
“That is probably the biggest disappointment at this stage, that they have not responded to my problem; whether they don’t care or won’t do anything about it I don’t know,” Mr Browne said.
Responding to an an inquiry by The Daily Advertiser about Mr Browne’s predicament, a Sanctuary Energy spokeswoman said the company was looking at the issues he had raised and would give him a response to address those concerns.
She said she could not answer questions on the wider issue of why deregulation had led to such a big price rise because that issue needed to be referred to executive management.
And that response would take some days.
In his email, Mr Browne asked if his contract with Sanctuary Energy was now null and void as the sudden tariff change had changed the contract.
Unfortunately for Mr Browne, it is not simple for him to change electricity retailers.
The contract he signed with Sanctuary Energy two years ago included the installation of solar panels on his garage roof.
If Mr Browne breaks the contract within five years, he will have to pay Sanctuary Energy $4000 for the panels, a figure that drops to $2000 after five years and zero after 10 years.
Mr Browne said he had been a happy Sanctuary Energy customer until being hit with this price rise.
Origin, Wagga’s largest electricity retailer, announced last month it would reduce its fixed and variable electricity charges by 1.5 per cent for residential customers on regulated contracts as a result of deregulation.
Origin has said scrapping the carbon tax should also save households about 7 per cent on electricity and 5 per cent on gas.
Origin, however, has increased gas prices by about 20 per cent.
The increase has been blamed on a tight gas supply market.