AN electricity giant trying to slug Victorian customers tens of millions of dollars more for smart meters has had its legal bid for higher prices rebuffed.
The Australian Competition Tribunal has dismissed distributor SP AusNet’s appeal to increase charges over the next two years to cover communications technology costs.
The rejected $72.2 million cash grab follows criticism over the company’s choice of technology for the state’s controversial compulsory smart meter rollout.
Other networks are using a different and cheaper communications technology.
Australian Energy Regulator chairman Andrew Reeves said the tribunal ruling was a significant consumer win.
“It confirms the AER was correct in deciding that consumers should not be required to bear the cost of SP AusNet’s decision not to switch to a lower-cost technology,” AER chairman Andrew Reeves said.
An AER spokesman added: “Once its costs had increased significantly from what was initially expected, the business should have reviewed its choice of technology.
By not doing so, we felt that they had departed from the commercial standard that was expected”.
SP AusNet’s most common annual smart meter charge this year is $130.45.
The AER said the distributor had wanted to increase charges by about 32 per cent over two years, rather than an approved 14 per cent.
In a statement to the Australian Stock Exchange, SP AusNet’s general counsel and company secretary Susan Taylor said the company was disappointed with the decision and would “carefully review the implications … and determine whether it is appropriate to take any further action”.
Australian Competition Tribunal rulings can be appealed at the Federal Court.