Farm Guide VIC : 2010 - 2011
53 Essential Services Regulator extends broad reach on essential services Victoria's statutory economic regulator, the Essential Ser vices Commission, plays a leading role in the provision of utility ser vices in the state. The Essential Ser vices Commission is involved at various levels in the delivery of water, electricity, gas, rail freight and other utility services. For the Victorian agricultural sector, utility costs comprise a major segment of farm inputs. First created in 1995 as the Office of the Regulator-General, the Essential Services Commission (ESC) was established in 2002 under the Essential Ser vices Commission Act 2001. The ESC is an independent and statutory regulator, operating under its legislation to promote the long-term interests of Victoria n consumers with regard to the price, quality and reliability of essential ser vices. The Commission's regulatory role differs between industry sectors, but in general its conduct covers the regulation of prices, service standards, market conduct and consumer protection. In recent years, the Commission's role has expanded to the investigation of regulatory matters on essential ser vices for subsequent advice to the Victorian Government. During 2009-10, for example, the Commission produced major reports into the Victorian domestic building insurance scheme a nd into a perfor mance monitoring framework for local government. Retail Energy The Essential Services Commission continues to play an importa nt role in the regulation of Victoria's retail energy sector. Retail electricity and gas prices are supplied at competitive prices set by the market, which in Victoria comprises up to 13 energy retailers. The State Government continues to maintain reserve powers with respect to the market. While their energy prices are now unregulated, retail energy providers (those that send the bill to consumers) must still comply with their licence conditions. The Commission continues to issue and oversee licences for electricity and gas retailers to operate in Victoria. And as part of this regulatory role, the ESC monitors and reports annually on the performance of the energy retailers, including the level of prices, customer complaints, disconnections and other indicators. The Commission also enforces a marketing code of conduct to ensure that energy retailers present themselves a nd their market offers accurately and honestly to consumers. Many Victorians have benefited from choosing a competitive energy offer, through lower prices or other incentives. When considering electricity and gas retail offers, however, it is importa nt that customers also understand their rights and obligations. For example, customers presented with a retail energy offer at the household or over the telephone do not have to accept on the spot; it's wise to check the offer -- and other retail energy offers -- before making a choice. Customers should ask the energy retailer or their representative for an offer summary to help compare energy plans. Offers should be checked for potential price changes, any additional fees, minimum contract periods, payment options and any extra benefits or ser vices. If a customer changes his or her mind after accepting an offer, they have 10 working days to contact the energy company and cancel the contract. In addition to its role in retail energy, the Commission administers the Victorian Energy Efficiency Target scheme. The VEET scheme, better know n as the Energy Saver Incentive, is a Victorian Gover nment program aimed at encouraging the uptake of energy-efficient technology. Essential Services Commission: Promoting consumers' interests in relation to the price, quality and reliability of Victoria's retail energy, water and transport essential services.
2009 - 2010