Will the Energy Charter help regain consumer trust?

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Jemena’s General Manager of Corporate Affairs, Ian Israelsohn, says consumer trust is at an all time low and is looking towards the Energy Charter for the answer.

Jemena is one of 15 energy businesses whose CEOs have committed to the Energy Charter; a whole-of-sector initiative aimed at improving energy customer outcomes.

Mr Israelsohn has nearly 30 years’ experience in the energy industry across a number of countries and believes he has never seen consumer trust as low as it is today.

“We are seeing increased consumer complaints, escalating disputes, negative media coverage, and a range of uncoordinated policy activity and inactivity by different governments,” Mr Israelshon said.

“All of this uncertainty further erodes consumer trust and the social license of our sector. It also makes our lenders and shareholders uncertain, increasing our financing costs, and feeding back into higher prices, which makes the situation even worse.

“In short: no one is happy. And without leadership there is no end in sight.”

The 2018 Edelman Trust Barometer report for Australia reported that the energy industry is the least trusted out of the 15 industries reported. It has both the lowest proportion of people who trust the industry (39 per cent), and the biggest fall in proportion since 2017 (-11 per cent).

“Into this environment slides the Energy Charter. The Energy Charter is an industry initiative that aims to deliver improved customer outcomes by driving collaboration across the energy sector,” Mr Israelsohn said.

“The Charter will do this by outlining a series of high-level principles that signatories will apply across their businesses to put customers and customer outcomes at the core of their business.

“Those companies who commit to the Energy Charter will agree to publicly report on how they are delivering against these principles and providing positive outcomes for customers.

This will be verified by an independent accountability panel, and an annual report that will be made available to the public. If signatories do not implement measures consistent with the principles, they will explain why under an “if not, why not” regime.

Mr Israelsohn said the process has been facilitated by Energy Consumers Australia, with foundation members coming from across the energy supply chain from generators to retailers, and gas and electricity transmission and distribution companies.

Foundation members, including Jemena, will take the Energy Charter, incorporating the feedback received over the consultation period, and roll it out from the start of 2019.

“This is a significant step forward for the industry, and I am proud that Jemena has seen fit to be one of the foundation members leading on putting customers at the heart of our business and the energy system,” Mr Israelsohn said.

“But this will not be easy, and there are fundamental changes that will need to occur.

“To the businesses that are already involved in the Energy Charter: dig deep. We have an opportunity to show our customers that we take this seriously, and the stakes have never been higher.

“To those businesses that are not (yet) involved: I encourage you to find out more about the Energy Charter and what it is going to mean for you.”

 

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