A screenshot of the class action website by Brisbane Law firm Piper Alderman.
A screenshot of the class action website by Brisbane Law firm Piper Alderman.

Power price ‘ripoff’: Chance to join Queensland class action

IF YOU are fed up with the prices you are paying for power in Central Queensland, you may be able to get some compensation following the launch of a class action against Queensland Energy by Brisbane-based law firm Piper Alderman.

Anyone who paid an electricity bill in Queensland between 2014 and 2019 is eligible to join in the class action, and it's completely free.

Even if you no longer live in Queensland, but paid electricity bills as a resident or a business owner during that time, you are able to be involved.

Greg Whyte, head of Piper Alderman's Dispute Resolution and Litigation team in Brisbane, said this case was about alleged abuse of market power.

"Stanwell and CS Energy have used their position to unlawfully manipulate the wholesale cost of electricity and that has driven up the prices paid by all Queensland businesses and consumers," he claimed.

"It's had a devastating effect on the Queensland economy.

"We are trying to stop that behaviour and recoup the losses that (allegedl) illegal conduct has caused for businesses, for Queenslanders."

Mr Whyte said the claim alleges that Stanwell and CS Energy artificially created scarcity of supply of electricity to the market to spike energy prices for their own profit.

"If correct this behaviour reflects a contravention of section 46 of the Competition and Consumer Act 2010," he said.

"We allege Stanwell and CS Energy gamed the electricity pricing system and artificially inflated consumers' electricity bills.

"Hardest hit were the energy-intensive industries that underpin Queensland's economy.

"This class action is designed to address past (alleged) misconduct by Stanwell and CS Energy but speaking up will help prevent future price spikes too."

 

An infographic of how the electricity market works.
An infographic of how the electricity market works.

 

In September 2017, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission conducted an inquiry into Queensland's inflated electricity prices.

"In July 2018, The Grattan Institute published a report concluding that Stanwell and CS Energy "game" the system by using their market power to create artificial scarcity of supply and so force prices up," a spokesperson said.

"In July 2019, when media attention was elsewhere, the Queensland Government removed their previous direction regarding "bidding games", leaving Queenslanders and Queensland businesses once again vulnerable to energy price spikes and related job losses."

A Stanwell spokesperson said in a statement the independent Australian Energy Regulator AER monitored and reported publicly on price spikes which occured in the National Electricity Market.

"The AER reports have confirmed that high wholesale prices which have occurred in Queensland at various times over the past five years were the result of high demand resulting from extreme temperatures, and network limitations and not the rebidding strategies of generators," the spokesperson said.

CS Energy said in a statement in June CS Energy rejected the claims made by Piper Alderman about CS Energy's bidding behaviours in the National Electricity Market (NEM).

"CS Energy operates in strict accordance with, and takes very seriously, our obligations to comply with all rules and regulations governing its participation and bidding in the NEM," a CS Energy spokesperson said.

"These allegations have previously been investigated by the Australian Energy Regulator and the ACCC and found that elevated price were not the result of "identifiable uses or abuses of market power (for example, conduct of particular generators to 'spike' the price)."

Energy Minister Dr Anthony Lynham said Queensland has the energy trifecta - lowest prices on the eastern seaboard, reliable supply and a planned transition to a renewable future.

"And we can do that because we kept our assets in public hands - including our generators, Stanwell, CS Energy and Cleanco," he said.

"We met our commitment to Queenslander's to act on competition by directing Stanwell in 2017 to alter its bidding strategies to help put as much downward pressure as possible on wholesale prices."

The issue has been investigated by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission and the Australian Energy Regulator.

"And as recommended by the ACCC, the government has established the third generator - CleanCo," Dr Lynham said.

"We have also delivered on our commitment to put downward pressure on electricity prices.

"Wholesale prices have almost halved since 2016-17 from around $93 a megawatt hour to around $54 a megawatt/hour in 2019-20.

"I encourage anyone with evidence that any of our generators are engaging in anti-competitive behaviour to provide this to the appropriate authorities."

A Piper Alderman spokeswoman said they planned to file the class action in late August.

To register your interest visit the Queensland Energy Class Action website.


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