All Victorian households will be handed a $50 bonus if they simply visit a state government website that compares energy deals.
Premier Daniel Andrews announced the Power Saving Bonus on Sunday to encourage voters to use the website and save on their bills.
“So many of our energy retailers bank on our consumers not having the time or the know-how to shop around and get a better deal,” Mr Andrews told reporters.
“This is every single Victorian household eligible if they simply go to the website and in 10 or 15 minutes, a really sound investment they not only get a $50 rebate, a $50 cheque that’ll be sent to them, but seven out of 10 of them are set to save very significant amounts of money.”
The Victorian Energy Compare website helps the typical household save $330 on their energy bills in the first year.
Households will need to visit the website between July 1 and December 31 to pocket the $50 bonus, but will not be required to take up an offer or switch plans.
The Liberal opposition described the package as a “stunt” and a “bribe”.
Speaking to reporters on Sunday, Shadow Treasurer Michael O’Brien blamed the Premier for rising energy bills.
“Daniel Andrews is like the bloke who steals your car and then offers you one lift to work and says, ‘We’re all square’.
“I don’t think Victorians will be fooled by Daniel Andrews’ election year $50 bribe.”
Mr O’Brien said some residents might not have access to a computer, or might not feel comfortable providing their banking details to the government.
“It’s the people who can least afford to pay Daniel Andrews’ higher power bills who are most likely to miss out on this $50 pre-election giveaway,” he said.
Shadow Energy Minister David Southwick said the package was “a bandaid on a broken leg”.
“People want action, people want a premier that is going to ensure that we see affordability and reliability in the market, and that’s not something we’re seeing today.”
Mr Southwick said a Liberal government would increase supply, and abolish the moratorium on onshore gas exploration and extraction.
Equality advocates the Victorian Council of Social Services welcomed the bonus, saying it would help to keep energy companies honest and power prices affordable.
“For too long, the big power companies have been fleecing customs and getting away with it,” VCOSS chief executive Emma King said.
“This extra scrutiny of people’s power plans really puts the energy companies on notice … and helps people get the best deal.”
Labor’s $50 cash bonus will be limited to properties, not individuals, and the 700,000 people who have already registered with the website can get the payment if they go back to it during the six-month period.
All retailers are mandated by Victorian law to provide their detailed offers to the website so customers can do proper comparisons.
The Premier denied the bonus was a pre-election gift, saying if people are incentivised to shop around then the state can save too.
Mr Andrews said this was especially true for concession card holders who get 17 per cent of their bills paid for by the public purse.
He expected about one million households to register and receive the cash bonus, but said it would be a “fantastic problem to have” if more homes visit the website to pocket the $50.