ACCC to provide more guidance to gas companies



The corporate watchdog will provide more guidance as gas companies struggle to implement the government’s new price cap.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission will provide more information on how the limit will work after some gas retailers stop accepting new industrial and commercial customers.

Retailers unable to secure supplies from producers are also dropping expiring contracts at expensive standard rates.

The ACCC said it would investigate producers who could try to avoid supplying gas below the price cap under the cover of confusion.

“If we become aware that gas is not being made available and there is evidence that it was planned, or is likely to be available or is being offered on terms that effectively amount to a refusal to supply, we will investigate whether that conduct may amount to an avoidance scheme,” it said in a statement.

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Dr. Chalmers said the ACCC would soon provide guidance to the gas market to remove any uncertainty.

“We must not forget about this gas price cap, which is a substantial intervention in the market … that was only introduced a few weeks ago,” he told TBEN TV on Tuesday.

“Inevitably during the Christmas period, when companies try to close new deals, it doesn’t just happen.

“There will be some issues as we implement this gas price cap… the ACCC will provide the kind of guidance that some players in the market are looking for.”

The treasurer said the price cap, along with electricity relief being worked through with state and territory governments, would keep bills low.

“These are all important, well-considered measures that we are taking that recognize the pressures faced by families, retirees and businesses,” said Dr Chalmers.

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“Inevitably when you put a price cap on a major part of the economy – these gas companies are doing incredibly well in international markets – they would rather there was no price cap, but we have to do what is right by the whole economy. “

The federal parliament was recalled before Christmas to pass temporary gas price cap legislation following a deal between the prime minister and state and territory leaders in the national cabinet.

The price cap, which went into effect December 23, applies to new domestic gas wholesale contracts by producers on the East Coast.

Liberal MP Dan Tehan said the government had “made a mess of it” by pushing the legislation through as quickly as possible.

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“We were all rushed to parliament just before Christmas to go through this legislation and then the government went on holiday,” he told TBEN Radio.

He said the gas industry was in a state of flux and was trying to decipher the new rules, including the “reasonable gas price” mechanism that is expected to be enshrined in a mandatory code of conduct in February.

“You have to remember that it is the wholesalers who are affected by the price cap – not the retailers,” said Mr Tehan.

“So the retailers are out there, left in the dark as they try to figure out how to get a wholesale price, and the wholesalers don’t know what a reasonable price will look like and what to negotiate.”