COTA Victoria says it is extremely concerned by a huge rise in the Essential Service Commission’s Victorian Default Offer (VDO) and its potential impact on older Victorians.
While the VDO is not meant to be the best available price to consumers, more needs to be done to ensure older people can access and receive the support that they need to get a cheaper deal, the Seniors advocacy body says.
“Older Victorians, particularly pensioners or those who receive welfare payments, are most vulnerable to energy price rises as they often have fixed incomes,” said COTA Victoria CEO, Chris Potaris.
“Their income and resources will not increase by the amount proposed in the draft decision. The proposed increased costs of over 30% for electricity, coupled with broader inflation and interest rises, could leave some older Victorians having to make difficult decisions if this offer comes into effect.”
The impact of such a price increase is compounded by the associated rise in gas costs, which have also increased by over 20% in 2023, Mr Potaris said.
Victoria is the state most reliant on gas for household use, making this a potent mix, he said. These combined rises may mean some older Victorians see their energy costs increase by over $800 this year.
“We are particularly concerned as the number of households on the VDO has more than doubled to 400,000 in less than 18 months. The VDO also applies to the estimated 150,000 customers in embedded networks, including retirement villages, where it is the maximum that can be charged. With an increasing reliance on digital technology to shop around for the best energy price, we are worried older Victorians will miss out and pay increased costs.”
“If the VDO is truly a safeguard, then vulnerable Victorians — especially certain segments of the older population — need to be protected from this proposed price rise,” Mr Potaris said.
“It is vital that we make sure that older Victorians get the best energy price, before the hike kicks in.”
“While we welcome initiatives for Victorians to reduce their energy costs, we are hearing that they are often struggling to reach older Victorians. For instance, while the soon-to-restart $250 Power Saving Bonus has a community outreach component for those not online, there’s a rise in older people that are not aware of the Bonus or how to access it.”
COTA Victoria believes greater investment, effort and outreach is needed to make sure that all possible energy supports reach those most at risk.
“There are too many vulnerable older people slipping through the gaps, while energy use is a key contributor to the health and wellbeing of older Victorians,” said Mr Potaris.
“COTA Victoria will continue to monitor the situation and work to protect the interests of older Victorians facing greatly increased power bills.”