Kerry Dean, the owner and operator of the former Saddle Mountain egg farm, says high electricity prices were one of the reasons they closed. Picture: Wesley Monts
Kerry Dean, the owner and operator of the former Saddle Mountain egg farm, says high electricity prices were one of the reasons they closed. Picture: Wesley Monts

Energy bill fight: 6000 join $1b class action

Businesses and consumers are lining up to join a $1bn class action claiming state-owned generators have been gaming the electricity market to boost their profits.

But the generators, Stanwell and CS Energy, deny the allegation and say the law firm building its case, Piper Alderman, is taking reports by regulators into the issue "out of context".

The Australian Energy Market Commission, Queensland Productivity Commission and Australian Competition and Consumer Commission have investigated the market with the AEMC introducing rule changes to deter late rebidding, while the ACCC has warned about the concentration of market power in Queensland.

The State Government has split its generation portfolio in light of the warning.

Piper Alderman partner Greg Whyte, who is from Townsville, said the problems persisted and they were looking to not only recover losses but stop it occurring in the future.

"The conduct affects the wholesale price across the state. Those wholesale prices flow through retailers to consumers' bills. When multiplied across the state those price effects are very likely to have exceeded $1bn," Mr Whyte said.

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Mr Whyte said around 6000 parties had joined so far and they were looking to file a statement of claim next month.

"A lot of those 6000 are businesses which is important because their losses are significantly higher (through) more consumption," Mr Whyte said.

One former Townsville business to join the class action is Saddle Mountain Homestead which closed its egg farm in 2018 partly because of high electricity prices.

Owner Kerry Dean said she thought Piper Alderman were running a "fair argument".

She wants to see competition in the electricity market and business costs reduced.

"We used a fair bit of electricity. It was one of the top costs I did have," Ms Dean said.

A spokeswoman for Stanwell said they rejected the allegations.

"If Piper Alderman and (litigation funder) LCM commence proceedings against Stanwell, as they are threatening to do, Stanwell will vigorously defend its conduct in the appropriate forum, the courts," the spokeswoman said.

CS Energy also rejected Piper Alderman's claims.

"We are particularly concerned on behalf of all Queensland consumers about some of the promises being made to vulnerable families by a privately funded class action in what has been a tough year for many," a CS energy spokeswoman said.

 

Originally published as Energy bill fight: 6000 join $1b class action


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