Over 630 complaints were received by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission about the carbon price since the commencement of the carbon pricing mechanism at the beginning of July.

The highest category of complaints received has been about claims made by energy retailers, especially in relation to price increases on electricity bills.

Over 250 consumers and businesses have reported concerns or asked questions about how the carbon price will affect their electricity and gas bills and whether the price increases communicated by energy retailers are appropriate.

“The number of carbon related complaints and enquiries received so far is not a large proportion of complaints to the ACCC, given that we received over 8350 general complaints in that period,” ACCC chairman Rod Sims said.

On the whole, the ACCC has not identified widespread issues and where there have been concerns the ACCC has worked with businesses to address them promptly.  Overall, the number of complaints we have received about small businesses and small retailers has generally been low.

“Although complaint numbers are low, we know these are important issues for people and we are working with businesses to ensure consumers are not duped into accepting a price increase they may otherwise question,” Sims said.

“While the ACCC does not have a formal price monitoring role and is not responsible for calculating what the carbon price will be for business, we are reviewing the claims made to ensure that they are not misleading or deceptive, including those made by energy retailers.”

However, the ACCC warms that any business attributes a price increase to the carbon price, they must not mislead consumers.

“Claims must be truthful and have a reasonable basis,” Sims said. “A business that makes a good faith, reasonable approach to calculating the carbon price for their business has nothing to fear from the ACCC.”

The ACCC also notes there may be some confusion arising from reports about the variety of cost pressures that impact on businesses and why prices may rise. For example, a price may increase partly due to the carbon price and partly due to other, unrelated factors. What might look like a carbon price representation at first glance often turns out to be something different.

The ACCC urges consumers to shop around, think twice and ask questions about these claims.