The big change coming to your electricity bill


Power bills set to become simpler, Telstra hikes internet charges despite $2 billion profit, and we reveal the scariest part of Halloween. Here are five things you may have missed this week.

Energy bills now easier to read

electricity bills easier to read from september 30

The days of looking at a power bill and wondering what it all means should be over.

September 30 marks the start date for energy retailers to comply with the Australian Energy Regulator's (AER) Better Bills Guideline.

It should make it easier to understand our energy usage and costs, and from there find the best energy deal with a power retailer.

Power companies must also include a 'better offer' statement on the front page of their bill, telling the customer if a better deal is available through the same retailer.

AER chair Clare Savage says even if you are on your current retailer's best deal, it's worth checking out what's available with other providers.

Consumers in New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia, Tasmania and the Australian Capital Territory can do this by jumping onto the Energy Made Easy website.

Victorians can head to the Victorian Energy Compare website for energy offers in their area.

The $490 million spend isn't the scariest part of Halloween

Consumers around the nation are having a "what the?" moment as Christmas merchandise starts to line store shelves - and we haven't even made it through Halloween.

The October 31 celebration is gaining traction, with Australians planning to spend $490 million on Halloween this year, up 14% on 2022.

The Australian Retail Association (ARA) says the most popular buys include Spiderman and witch costumes, with pumpkin outfits a hot favourite for (but not among) pets.

ARA CEO Paul Zahra says Halloween is a chance for us to enjoy "some spooky silliness".

But the real fright is not the fake blood or the $93 average spend per person.

Halloween has a scary reputation for creating massive amounts of waste as cheap costumes, plastic decorations and excessive lolly packaging end up in land-fill. In the UK alone, 7 million Halloween costumes are binned each year.

The World Wildlife Fund recommends recycling costumes (only 1% are currently recycled), using cloth bags for trick or treating, and choosing real rather than plastic pumpkins for Halloween decorations. Fake cobwebs are a no-no for outdoor areas as they can trap insects and birds.

Telstra to charge more for internet

Having reported a full-year profit of $2 billion for 2022/23, Telstra has announced a $5 per month increase to its home internet plans, effective from November 1.

The decision has raised the ire of consumer advocates.

Consumer Action Law Centre CEO, Stephanie Tonkin, says plenty of families battling a cost-of-living crisis don't have a buffer to absorb the price hike, on top of recent price rises on mobile phone plans.

"It's another example in the trend of massive businesses posting billions in profits while at the same time increasing prices, citing increasing costs as a driver," says Tonkin.

"As Australia's leading provider of essential telecommunications and internet services, it is incumbent on Telstra to offer plans that people in hardship can actually afford."

There was some good news with Telstra announcing savings for certain people on low incomes, but Tonkin says this offer isn't for all customers in hardship, and it requires people to proactively connect with Telstra's concessions programs.

"Telstra should improve customer service by telling users when there's a better deal available, rather than letting them languish on bad and unaffordable standing offers," says Tonkin. "The business is clearly not suffering unlike many of its customers."

Manifesting your way to bankruptcy

Manifesting is just one of the latest wellness crazes that involve thinking your way to a better life.

But when it comes to achieving financial success, research by the University of Queensland (UQ) shows manifesting can backfire badly.

Dr Lucas Dixon from UQ's Business School, says, "The business world is filled with self-described experts, gurus, and influencers who promise success through manifestation, but many of these beliefs and practices lack solid evidence."

Across a series of studies, UQ found people who believe in manifesting financial success are more likely to make risky investments and end up bankrupt.

Associate Professor Nicole Hartley, says, "Those with a stronger manifestation belief were also more likely to believe they could get rich quickly, and hence may not see the pitfalls of get-rich-quick schemes."

Banks behaving badly

September has been a shocker for the big banks, with several of our largest banks copping fines or being sued for alleged misbehaviour.

This week saw the Federal Court slap ANZ with a $15 million penalty after the bank admitted to misleading customers about the funds available in various credit card accounts.

A bank error meant the 'available funds' displayed for some cards showed a larger amount than was really available for withdrawal without incurring fees or interest. Customers who obtained a cash advance based on the available funds were hit with fees and interest.

Over 186,000 accounts were affected, with some customers charged thousands of dollars in fees.

ANZ is remediating the impacted accounts.

Another big four bank, NAB, has been fined $2.1 million for wrongfully charging customers periodic payment fees.

Rounding up the trifecta, ASIC has launched civil penalty proceedings against Westpac for failing to respond to customers' hardship notices within the 21 days required by law.

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A former Chartered Accountant, Nicola Field has been a regular contributor to Money for 20 years, and writes on personal finance issues for some of Australia's largest financial institutions. She is the author of Investing in Your Child's Future and Baby or Bust, and has collaborated with Paul Clitheroe on a variety of projects including radio scripts, newspaper columns, and several books.