NSW bans fees on energy bills

NSW Premier Glady Berejiklian revealed energy suppliers are no longer allowed to bill customers for receiving paper bills, with Kellie Northwood, CEO, Keep Me Posted saying this is a powerful step forward for consumers.

The banning of fees for paper bills represents a tremendous victory for the Keep Me Posted Campaign, which is part of the Two Sides campaign.

 It is also good news for printers who saw a serious revenue stream almost wiped out when the big banks, telcos and utilities switched to internet billing and started charging for paper fees, under the guise of environmental protection but really in order to save themselves money.

The banning of fees for bills comes in a series of measures included in the new energy bill relief package, which also includes increasing rebates and granting discounts on equipment upgrades for households and small businesses, the package also includes the end of ‘unnecessary charges’.

[Related: Minister against fees for paper bills]

Don Harwin, Energy and Utilities Minister says energy retailers will be forced to scrap early termination fees, paper bill fees and fees for paying over the counter at Australia Post

Northwood says, “We praise the NSW state government for their leadership. Australian consumers’ voice has been heard and the NSW government has acted quickly to tackle unfair fees.”

The launch of the energy bill relief package came after the Consumer Affairs Forum held in Melbourne which saw the federal and state ministers for consumer affairs announcing that Commonwealth Treasury would undertake regulatory assessment of fees for paper billing.

In the lead up to the forum, Keep Me Posted had met with NSW Consumer Affairs Minister Matt Kean to raise awareness of the many and complex impacts of paper billing fees on consumers, particularly the most vulnerable members of the community.

Northwood says, "We hope that the NSW example will set a precedent that will be promptly followed by other State Governments. We also call on energy companies to take the opportunity to do the right thing beyond NSW borders and scrap paper fees for all their Australian consumers.

“Keep Me Posted has started engaging with other State Governments to encourage them to implement similar bans on paper fees. We will also urge companies in other sectors, (banks, telcos, insurance companies, other utilities), to act quickly and not wait for Treasury’s decision to abandon fees on paper communications.
 
“We are also focusing on the consumer education program about exemptions announced by Minister McCormack on the August 31. Keep Me Posted has already gathered a lot of evidence and we see great discrepancies between providers, some granting exemptions for people over 60, others for people over 80. People feel that they are discriminated against because of their age or their personal situation. Although we believe it is not up to the private sector to assess people’s vulnerabilities, consumers have the right to know what they are entitled to.”

Keep Me Posted said that NSW’s announcement is a significant milestone for the campaign, the proof that paper fees are not destined to stick around.

The campaign is now focusing on Victoria and Queensland, both currently have Labor governments, which in theory should be more open to the banning of fees, which impact the more vulnerable.

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