Electricity prices hit business, with many on wrong tariffs

Hunter businesses are being hit with electricity price rises of up to 42 per cent, an energy analyst says. 

Bruce Hodgkinson, who runs the Newcastle-based company The Power Bill Doctor, met on Monday with Rany Vy –  who owns takeaways at Gateshead and Valentine.

Mr Hodgkinson said her bills had risen 28 per cent and 42 per cent respectively. 

Ms Vy said it was hard to afford the rises and difficult to pass them on to consumers.

Mr Hodgkinson said price rises were “out of control” and retailers were gouging customers.

“State and federal governments are equally to blame. The only way now to save yourself is to understand how you use your electricity, work out where you’re wasting it, stop the waste and reduce your consumption,” he said.

He called for regulators to intervene on power prices, saying “this is just the tip of the iceberg”.

He added that hundreds of Hunter businesses were being “billed incorrectly” for electricity prices, which was costing them up to 50 per cent more.

“About 15 to 20 per cent of business power bills that we see are on the wrong tariff,” he said.

This can happen when businesses inherit the tariff of a previous owner or tenant.

“The retailers don’t give a damn,” he said.

The Australian Energy Council, which represents electricity retailers, urged businesses to talk to their providers.

“Most of the retailers offer services to help them look at bills and make sure they are on the right tariffs and where they might be able to make savings,” a spokesman said.

Hunter Business Chamber chief executive Bob Hawes urged the federal government to take immediate action to reduce prices. 

Mr Hawes also urged business to shop around for the best price. But he warned that some have been enticed to change retailers with discounts and, when they revert to normal prices, “they are seeing big increases”.

”Some people have been enticed to change retailers with discounts and, when they revert to normal prices, they are seeing big increases,” Mr Hawes said.

Generally, businesses were facing electricity price rises of about 20 per cent and gas price rises of about 10 per cent, he said.

He said authorities should be making the retail electricity market easier for customers to understand.

“We’d like to see reforms so customers can compare oranges with oranges.”

Mr Hodgkinson helped clients negotiate the complex nature of power bills and change to plans “better suited to their actual electricity usage”.

He had secured bill reductions at a Newcastle tyre business ($14,900 to $6900 –  a 54 per cent drop), a real estate business at Toronto ($12,100 to $6780 – a 44 per cent fall) and a service station at Carey Bay ($12,800 to $8200 – a 36 per cent reduction).