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Pricing Policy Review
To create a strategy that enabled the pricing regulator to lift prices by 10%. United Energy believed that the biggest hurdle for achieving the price rise was the view that electricity had become unaffordable for some. A review of who had difficulty paying demonstrated that just one percent of its customers had difficulty paying, whilst the rest would not be impacted by 10% price increase. In the new privatised environment, there was no clear obligation to provide electricity to those who couldn’t pay. Though, there was some moral obligation to work with financial counsellors to reduce the likelihood of disconnections. Reputation Qest, under the leadership of Katherine Teh-White who was chief executive officer at the time, was asked to create a strategy to secure the regulator’s support for a price rise. Reputation Qest was charged with the role to engage at least 10 stakeholders – such as the Australian Financial and Consumer Rights Council, Victorian Council of Social Services and the Energy Users Group – to support the strategy and provide a testimonial that could be used in the company’s submission to the regulator. Hill and Knowlton were hired to lobby the government.
In the end the strategy failed to convince the politicians it was important to secure such a commitment from a utility and failed to convince the regulator to change the price. The offer to secure electricity for all was withdrawn.