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Select Committee on Electricity Prices
03/10/2012
Electricity price increases in Australia

ZINN, Mr Christopher John, Director, Campaigns, One Big Switch

[09:50]

CHAIR: Good morning, Mr Zinn. The committee has received your submission. Do you have an opening statement that you wish to make?

Mr Zinn : I do.

CHAIR: Please go ahead.

Mr Zinn : First of all, thank you for the opportunity to appear. One Big Switch is very grateful for that. We have a great interest in electricity, particularly from the consumer point of view. There is no doubt that anyone who has taken even a cursory look at this area could wonder why, with all the regulators, all the agencies and all the interests, the interests of the ordinary person who gets to pay the bill somehow seem to have been, if not forgotten, put very low in the line.

I hope our submission is practical and constructive. We are very pleased that it is the federal parliament that has made this intervention because, as I have said, there has been all sorts of squabbling and argy-bargy about who is to blame and we really need something with national authority to look closely at this issue. Our submission deliberately does not go into great analysis on the reasons why prices have gone up. We know that they have and we are much more interested in what the solutions might be. As you have been listening to experts with all of their various theories, I am sure that there is truth in many of them.

We are interested less so in fighting prices and more in giving consumers control over their electricity bills. That might sound like a bit of an academic difference, but we believe one of the key imperatives should be to put people back in charge. In terms of our submission, which is here, we asked One Big Switch members from yesterday morning to vote and put their name to this submission. When I left Sydney last night, there were 12,000 names there, and I am happy to tender that electronically as needs be. The number is up to 17,000 and more this morning. We take that as evidence that people want to be involved in this process. Consumers have felt isolated and left out but, in terms of the solutions, they want to be there, and that is very much the area where we are coming from.

Our first recommendation is around price transparency, around plans. You have heard a lot about the confusion—the 'confusopoly', as it is sometimes known—in electricity plans. I have been very immersed in this area for the past six months and I am still confused by some of it. Incredibly, I find people who are in the industry who do not even understand the market they work in. We are in a situation where there are literally hundreds of electricity plans out there, particularly in Victoria, where there has been a proliferation, but nobody knows what they are. No regulator can get their hands on them because the retailers hang on to that information. We say that, as a very simple reform, whenever there is a price increase to any plan it should be published by the retailer, and how it influences all the plans. I have heard stories that the federal government in terms of Centrelink finds it hard to make concessions available to people when they do not know what plan they are on. We know that most bills do not tell you exactly what plan or discount you might be on if you are in a market offer, so there is a big push to be made in terms of price transparency.

The second recommendation is about unlocking the data. Data is power. The energy usage data that we generate as consumers is incredibly valuable, and we want some of that value to flow back to consumers in terms of the decisions they make.

At present I have seen in some of the retailers' reports around this that they are worried about confusing consumers; they are worried that this data might get out. We would point to examples overseas, in America and in the UK, where this data is becoming more and more freely available. People can make it available under privacy and security arrangements to trusted third parties who will interpret it and give them the information they need in terms of energy efficiency or, it might be, switching to other plans. We believe that getting the data out there is absolutely vital. The retailers—Origin and Energy Australia—are doing various trials around this with web portals or whatever. That is great and that sort of innovation is to be welcomed; but it is also really important that we unlock the creativity of software developers and people who write apps because it is that kind of area which can come up with some great ideas. In America for example there is a Facebook application that can tell you how you compare a benchmark against similar people in terms of the savings you make. That makes a big difference.

It really is about control. People want control. We just did the Big Electricity Switch. We believe people wanted to do something; they felt powerless through far too much of this process. Please give them the opportunity to do something. We believe that they will take it and shake it with all hands. Thank you.

CHAIR: Thank you. Your submission was quite interesting and you do go to the issues associated with empowering consumers and providing them with the data. In your view do the current regulatory settings prevent consumers accessing the data?

Mr Zinn : The Australian Energy Market Commission Power of choicereport makes various recommendations that the energy rules have to be amended to make it clearer. There is no doubt that you can get some of your usage information but quite how useful or portable that is is open to question. Again, in that Power of choice report, there are questions raised about the time it takes. As we have said in the submission it is vital that there be a common technical standard so this information can arrive in a way that people can actually use, and in a timely sense as well. From what I understand, very few people access their usage information. Some of that is driven by the fact that there are far too few people who have interval and smart meters to really get useful information out of it. That shows that there is something lacking and we need to have the foresight to lay the ground rules so that we can really help this area grow.

CHAIR: I am assuming that you are advocating that should be at a national level—that there should be consistency at a national level?

Mr Zinn : Absolutely. This is an international phenomenon and it is called—one of the bits of jargon—volunteering private information. It is the way that people can volunteer their private information or data to whole new industries that are springing up to enable them. This could be around banking or insurance or whatever—typically areas where consumers have been very confused and have not really been able to take full advantage of the market. We believe energy is an absolutely ripe example of where that can happen. It needs to be in step with improvements in metering so we can get some energy usage data that people can use and profit from.

CHAIR: Do you think the reforms associated with the National Energy Customer Framework go some way towards meeting some of those expectations?

Mr Zinn : Yes, they do; but a lot of this stuff is very technical. It does not touch the ordinary person. They do not understand it. To have a ringing endorsement from an inquiry such as your own to put a rocket under these kinds of changes would make a big difference. There is a lot of stuff in the consumer framework which is valuable. I would hate to think that this particular area might have to wait its place in line for some real change to happen.

CHAIR: One of the issues that we have been grappling with is that many of the submitters are advocating greater exposure by consumers to time-of-use pricing and variable pricing. I am just wondering what your organisation's view on that is and, in particular, how we as a committee would recommend protecting vulnerable consumers in those circumstances?

Mr Zinn : Yes. We believe that time-of-use can deliver benefits to many consumers. In terms of principles and cross-subsidies that have gone on, we would like to see the amount you pay for the bill reflect the cost of providing that because in that sort of competitive environment it can deliver help to many consumers—but of course not all, so there have to be protections put in place. Again, the Power of Choice report—the draft report, anyway—has made some very good recommendations in terms of what sort of small business and household groups might be put to time-of-use first of all and those who would probably never be migrated. It should be a matter of individual choice.

But beyond that, hopefully we can come up with a scheme if we look 10 years or beyond. While there are protections for those who really need it, we have a system where people understand what the cost of their electricity is so they can make the changes, where possible, that they can. Some people will not be able to do that, for very good reasons. There is another group of people who think they cannot do it because change is always difficult. We believe that if you put the right incentives in place they can make those changes, because the benefit for them will be lower—I always hesitate to say 'lower prices', because the prices are going up all the time, but hopefully lower, more contained bills.

CHAIR: Some have advocated a national advocacy body. Are you part of the group that advocates that?

Mr Zinn : We are not part of the working group which has looked for a national advocacy body. And, because we deliberately wanted to keep our submission very small—I know some of them were very long—I did not actually enter into that. I do believe that there is a great need for a national advocacy body. I look to the United States, where there are some fantastic utility advocacy bodies, particularly one in Illinois which I would recommend. I am happy to tell you where it is. Since the 1960s they have got literally hundreds of millions of dollars back for consumers who have been overcharged through various derring-do of utilities there. They have an attitude of not just writing submissions but going in there and fighting for consumers. I believe that is what is needed. I would love to see a national body, but really I would want to see one with teeth and attitude, because I think that is what people need and are looking for.

Senator IAN MACDONALD: Thank you very much for your submission. It is very interesting. Good luck. It seems to be that it is all about competition. Talking about national advocacy bodies, aren't you it?

Mr Zinn : There is a gap because there is not any national advocacy body.

Senator IAN MACDONALD: As you quite clearly say, you are a for-profit organisation. You are like a mortgage broker, and you go around and help people—dummies like me—who cannot follow the electricity. So I would sign up to you and you would say to me, 'Tell us about yourself, what you do, we will negotiate with your suppliers and get you a better rate.' Is that how you work?

Mr Zinn : We gather groups together. If I could explain the big electricity switch—which is what we just did. We felt there was a problem with electricity, prices were going up, people felt helpless. When I was at Choice, the year before with One Big Switch, we had done a big bank switch. We gathered a group of people together, we negotiated with financial services, and we got a lower offer. Then people who had literally thrown their hat in the ring made a decision. With the big electricity switch we thought we would get 20,000 people. One Big Switch had a history of dealing with the retailers, so they had the relationships. We thought we could get offers which would be attractive. It actually got a quarter of a million people in the end. It really was far bigger than we had expected. I suppose that has given us some authority in this space. I would hesitate to say we were a national advocacy body—

Senator IAN MACDONALD: But you are going through understanding it and getting a better price for your members.

Mr Zinn : We are about making interventions into markets to get better outcomes for consumers—

Senator IAN MACDONALD: Competition.

Mr Zinn : Yes, and driving up competition. That is basically what it is. Our business model is: those people who choose to switch, the offer we might have provided, we will get a fee for that, which is fully disclosed, and that is fine. But, more importantly, I think the difference from other players is that we encourage people to go to their existing provider and ask for a discount. In the big electricity switch more people took that advice. Perhaps some 60,000 phoned up their supplier and asked for a discount and, because we made an intervention which had driven up competition, they got it. That has made them more engaged and I hope that it carries on in terms of electricity.

Senator IAN MACDONALD: Good for you, and I wish you every success. Are you able to say as a generalisation that when you are looking around for the best plan for a person, a family or a household, whether you consider things like the cost of renewable energy compared with the cost of old-style black coal power energy?

Does that all come into the mix? I would assume that if you went with all black coal power, for example, you would end up with a cheaper rate than if you went with all wind power.

Mr Zinn : I would look at it the other way; there is the electricity offer there, and then you can have green power, which comes at an additional cost. That is an area that we are going to look at to see if we can restore some confidence in the green energy market, because there has been quite a bit of dissolution around that. We do not ever say we get the best offer. We just put an offer. What is the best offer? You can never really say. Some of these plans literally exist for one day in one suburb, where doorknockers might be pushing out one particular plan over another and, as I said, nobody knows where it is. We just hope to come to simpler, more straightforward offers so that people can compare and make their own decisions.

We found that one big problem with the big electricity switch is that people do not know what plan they are on, what discount they are on or if they are on a market offer. While we built a savings calculator on the website to help them with that, getting information about the plans out there is like getting blood out of a stone.

Senator IAN MACDONALD: Do you think it needs more government regulation to force the retailers to be more transparent, or will that come through the activities of people like yourself?

Mr Zinn : I hope so. We believe generally that competition can drive change more quickly, more efficiently and more nimbly than regulation. It may well be that in this particular instance, with electricity tariffs, the players are so entrenched that they might be very unwilling to do that, and so it might require some regulation. But given the essential nature of electricity, and how we want to drive competition and make it work for people, it is important to get the plan information data out there in a way that the Australian Energy Regulator, with its new comparison site, can do business in a way that helps people.

Senator WATERS: Thanks very much for your evidence so far. On a question that Senator Macdonald asked, I want to flesh out a little more the distinction between competition and regulation. Both the Energy Supply Association of Australia and the Energy Retailers Association of Australia support deregulation of retail prices. ESAA says that competition, not regulation, will deliver the best deal for consumers. It also says that retail price regulation stifles innovation. What is your response to those claims?

Mr Zinn : We would broadly be in agreement with that. If I can talk about the big electricity switch, to give you an example of that, in Victoria we were able to offer discounts of 18.5 per cent on TRUenergy's market rate because it is the most competitive state. In Queensland the figure was more like 12 per cent because there is more regulation and fewer retailers in that area. Since then, the issue of abolishing exit fees has come up. Exit fees can stifle mobility, and mobility is a part of competition, but an unforseen consequence of that, depending on how you do it, could be that people get access to less discount because retailers need to lock them in for a period. The understanding is that in year 1 they lose money on a contract but it is in years 2 and 3 that they recoup it.

Certainly, Victoria has a situation where the exit fees are regulated to about the $20 level. They seem to get a lot of competition, so I am not sure it is necessarily always the best idea to completely abolish them. In a broad sense we believe that competition can change and shake things up quickly, but I would not like to say that we were completely hands off. We understand that in this particular area some regulation is necessary.

Senator WATERS: You cited the Victorian example. Do you have a view on the AEMC data from 2011 that says the retail component of Victorian prices is actually higher and rising faster than other jurisdictions?

Mr Zinn : Some of that is to do with the cost of acquisition and the marketing and doorknocking that goes on. Our interest is in the cost that the individual person pays.

It is actually quite hard to know. While there was that Energy Users Association data about South Australia having the highest cost in the world, it is quite hard to compare different jurisdictions to see who pays more. While there were real problems in the way that competition has not done its best in Victoria, we would still look to a deregulated scene as one where there is a lot of innovation and change.

I do not think we need to be too distracted by the smart meter rollout. It has been in some ways a real mess-up, but we still need to believe in the technology. It always surprises me that Australians are said to be the greatest early adopters of the newest technology, but if you go into many homes you will find accumulation meters from the 1950s still whizzing around. It just does not make sense. We need to get more confidence and trust in the technology and more confidence and trust among people in the market so that they are prepared to switch and prepared to look more critically at their bills and realise that there are actions that they can take.

Senator WATERS: You mention in your submission what sounds like a fascinating development out of the University of Sydney—the MyPower Energy Platform, which lets folk monitor from individual appliances how much power they are consuming and therefore they can work out what is the best time to use them. Can you talk a bit more about that and what sort of time frame that is operating on? Are we going to see that in the market any time soon?

Mr Zinn : Two PhD students developed this and it works through having various sensors in the plugs for the devices. They are going out to market and I hope it is not one of those Australian innovations that goes offshore and comes back to us at a greater price. But they are talking about this being some four or five years, as I understand it, in the future. I would just say this is typical of a suite of ideas and inventions which people have come to us with in the past few months—some very big research organisations, some small entrepreneurs. I am afraid Australia is rather lagging behind the rest of the world in terms of some of these changes that can be made, particularly in the demand-side participation area.

Senator WATERS: I have one last clarification. You talked a bit about the National Energy Customer Framework and whether or not it was adequate. You said basically it needed to hurry up. Is that an accurate summary? Are there any other reforms needed?

Mr Zinn : It is not a criticism. Part of the problem is, of course, that not all the states are on board yet. There have been various delays around that. There is a lot of worthwhile stuff. I think the problem with frameworks is they are not really aimed at consumers. They are aimed at industry, at the players, at the regulators. We want some ideas that get out there to mobilise and energise consumers, to make them realise that they are not powerless and that there are things they can do. As I said, while I know you will face a large list of very important things that need to be done that will produce good outcomes in the long term, we are keen to find some things in the short to medium term which people can do and get involved with, because that will keep up the pressure and the momentum for change.

Senator EDWARDS: Mr Zinn, I must declare that I have logged onto your website since you first advertised, following your progress, and I got an email from you yesterday while I was sitting in an inquiry in Perth on the same issue. The email told me that it is an important issue and that I should respond to your survey, which I did not, of course, because I was in the middle of an inquiry.

I must agree with your opening statement. I have said to the secretariat and the chair here that this industry right across the country is bound for death by acronym. There are so many different regulatory oversight bodies, so many different survey bodies, so many different groups. There are generators, there are distributors, there are network owners and there are private entities interspersed with government. So it is absolutely no wonder the eyes of the public glaze over when they have no idea of even how to measure their power requirements, what a megawatt is, what a kilowatt hour is and how that relates to how much their dryer uses when they turn it on during peak times.

That said, I wanted to take you back to a comment you made about restoring renewables to the marketplace and perhaps establishing a choice for consumers so they can choose green energy or renewable energy, albeit at a higher cost. Give us what your mind's eye is thinking about that.

Mr Zinn : It is still in development. Electricity is not just about the cheapest price. Some people are prepared to pay a premium in terms of where their electricity might be sourced from. We would like to intervene in that market to give more clarity around it. We have not actually done that, so I cannot give any evidence of how it would go. The point is it is actually people's choice and they should really make the decision. Green energy, as with other areas of energy, people are a bit divorced from it and what it means and what they are actually buying. The electrons are the same but what are they actually purchasing? I do not have any specific first-hand evidence around that except to say that there was a big green energy market some years ago. My understanding is that it has diminished because there are some players who fell out. It is obviously something that for those people who feel it is important they should have access to.

Senator EDWARDS: So you think it should get to be like your superannuation fund, where when you sign up to your superannuation fund you can choose between international shares, local shares, high-risk shares, low-risk shares, all those things, and you choose a proportion and you pay a tariff accordingly?

Mr Zinn : I would hesitate to make a comparison with superannuation, which has its own complexities. It is actually far simpler. People just opt for green energy and then they can choose whether that might be derived from wind, solar or whatever kind of mix. It really is up to retailers to come up with the kind of products that people want.

Senator EDWARDS: Is it the higher cost of green energy that you think has created what you refer to and perhaps I could describe as a bit of a market failure?

Mr Zinn : It is part of it. There is a great book called The Myth of the Ethical Consumer by Professor Tim Devinney and there is a line in there that the survey radical, that is someone who says what they will do in a survey, becomes the fiscal conservative at the checkout. So when it comes to actually paying for it people do not follow through. That may well be the case with green energy. Many people express the desire for it but when it comes to it, certainly at a time when energy prices are going up so steeply, that is one of the first things to go.

Senator EDWARDS: It is like buying Australian, isn't it? We all want to buy Australian but we buy imported tomatoes because they are cheaper. Smart metering, dashboarding, those types of things are in your submission. You feel that they are a way to empower the consumer. Victoria have mandated it. We are a very aggressive country in world terms in swapping our energy providers. Have you done any work with benchmarking Australia against the rest of the world in terms of the switching rate?

Mr Zinn : Not directly but I have seen some of the work of the energy retailers. Victoria is a super hot market, the rest of us are in a hot market and Lithuania is a very cold market. In terms of the switching it is quite high. One of the questions we have not been able to find out the answer to is whether this is the same people churning round and round. What about the lump of people, however big it might be, still on the standard contracts?

Senator EDWARDS: Like me.

Mr Zinn : Yes, who have never moved. We believe one reason for that is lack of confidence in the market and in doorknockers, and one could forgive them for thinking that. But at the same time they could have access to better offers, as we might stylise it. But, as I say, the market has really failed them.

Senator EDWARDS: So you are advocating smart meters and what we call dashboarding as a means of empowering. But that comes at a cost and it is a massive cost in Victoria. Do you think we should be laying another cost over the industry?

Mr Zinn : We would advocate smart metering and dashboarding—first of all, the cost was laid directly to the consumer without any benefit being explained to the consumer, as I understand it. We believe there is a benefit that flows to most consumers through smart metering. In a way you cannot hold back technology. Quite how that is paid for, there are various ways to slice and dice it. In the retailers' submission they have given various scenarios for that. I would not like to think that the fact that there are difficulties in working out how it is going to be paid for is going to hold us back from the bigger impetus that the technology is really going to help. Unless people can measure and understand it, how on earth can they save it? I heard the senator talking about having made energy efficient savings in terms of your practice and finding very little payoff in terms of your bill.

That is part of the information gap which metering and dashboarding can help with. But I hasten to say you can have all the smart meters and dashboards in the world but you have got to build in some incentives for people to actually use them. One concern would be, and I know in Victoria under various schemes there are various people doorknocking and handing over dashboard style devices to people, how you get people to use devices. How do you make them appreciate that there are real savings and benefits for them from that? It is not always straightforward. In fact, one of the research groups we are talking to is looking very carefully at this area of incentives, because just to say 'you are going to save money on your bill' actually is not always enough. It is about benchmarking and comparing—with other people who are like you—what they do and what they consume and what energy efficient measures they take and then sharing that information through social media, and that is one real way of the future. It might not be something that the existing energy networks and retailers really understand but it is that which the developer community is right on top of and perhaps it is in that way that we can see real behavioural change.

Senator EDWARDS: So in that by implication you are suggesting that there is a massive deficit of consumer knowledge in this area as to how to actually change their habits on peak-demand days and at times when their electricity demands are at their highest? So I am sensing that. The other thing is: how do you then deliver real savings and a real decline in energy prices when so much of the cost then is already set in stone through generation networking costs? Aren't we just tinkering around the edges as to the retail premiums so perhaps at that end? Is it the elephant in the lounge room we are not addressing?

Mr Zinn : You are right. There are things that we have no influence over — or at least One Big Switch doesn't. But in terms of the competition in the market and the decisions people make, certainly that is at the retail end. In terms of the behaviour and the way people use it, they can make reductions. Now some of those, in terms of energy efficient light bulbs or whatever, have been brought to people. But unless you can measure it and unless you can see it and unless you know what it is priced at, how on earth can you make decisions that can help keep the lid on your bills? So we would say to give people the information in a way that they can use, to give them the incentives to use it and to also unlock that data so there can be third parties in there, other businesses, developers and application makers. I would suggest that if we come back in 10 years to look back, and it might be even quicker given the speed these things develop, we will see it will really be something that someone has not heard of that actually captures the public imagination or finds a way to get people to make changes which actually end up saving them money on their bills.

Senator EDWARDS: Finally, and I will move away from a lot of the thrust of your evidence today and go to the majority of the area in which we have been working, do you believe that the networks are responsible for voracious behaviour in increasing their profits for their shareholders' gain and that all Australians are paying for that appetite?

Mr Zinn : I would believe that is a fair assessment but I would not be surprised, because if the system is set up for networks to do that they believe in that and it is in their DNA. I go back to my opening comments that the consumer interest was forgotten about amongst all these acronyms and all these bodies and amongst all this legislation. While they have talked about it, I think it is obvious from what has happened that it was either forgotten about or it came very low down the list of priorities. That is what we have got to address.

Senator IAN MACDONALD: They have nearly all been state government owned—or certainly in Queensland they have been—so it is going back to the consumers in less tax I guess.

Mr Zinn : I think that adds to the disappointment people feel. We like to think regulated areas like electricity offer protections. While there may be some formal protections out there, the rate of increase has left many people very uncomfortable and very exposed.

CHAIR: So are you saying that, given the way the system is set up, there are incentives for goldplating particularly by many of these government owned businesses?

Mr Zinn : I do not have specific knowledge or the analytical tools to make a call on that. I would just say that with the system if it is in their interest to do something and they can do it within the rules they will do so. That is part of the way that they work so it is a question of changing the rules so they do not do it anymore.

Senator IAN MACDONALD: But groups like yours will eventually succeed in a competitive market?

Mr Zinn : We hope so. We want lots more players to come into this, in terms of energy, demand-side participation and the rest of it. There would be hundreds. Again, if you look overseas at the Green Button project in America, what is exciting is the flourishing of ideas and people who are coming into this space. In 10 years time the people that we deal with in and around our energy might not be the names that we know and the customer relationship might be held with somebody else.

CHAIR: Earlier you were talking about the way your organisation works. It is similar to an aggregator, really, isn't it? You bring together a group of consumers and offers something to them and to the wider market?

Mr Zinn : There are slight differences. We would seek to create offers as opposed to compare them, once they are ready in the market. This phenomenon is known as collective switching or synchronised switching. In Britain it is fully backed by the government, and the statutory consumer body there, Consumer Focus, have done a lot of work. In Europe, it is particularly in the Netherlands. It is one of the new areas that is made possible by the fact that you can gather groups together via the internet, at speed and low relative cost. It is all brand-new and opening, and we do not quite know where it is going. It is just one area that we have explored.

CHAIR: Do you think your body would consider using that group to undertake demand-side participation—in other words, sell some of the demand back into the system somehow?

Mr Zinn : Definitely. It is so exciting. There are probably 20,000 people who want to do something. Perhaps we have to come up with a better term for demand-side participation. That is what great about the Green Button—

Senator EDWARDS: No more acronyms.

Mr Zinn : Yes, no more acronyms. I think they would be delighted to do something. Not all of them can. People just want to do more than just get a power bill on a piece of paper—'There is nothing I can do but suffer.'

Senator IAN MACDONALD: Do most of your members contact you because of price? Is it people who are worried about the cost of their electricity or do a lot contact you about wanting to save the world—green power or something?

Mr Zinn : We did a survey in terms of the big electricity switch and for 80 per cent of the people it was about price. Other numbers were about service and a significant number wanted to just do something. They felt so powerless otherwise. When you look at the complaints—and we get a lot of feedback and emails—it is actually about service too: bills that are incorrect, meters that are not read and are estimated. There is a whole litany of service issues that need to be set right as well.

Senator IAN MACDONALD: In Queensland a few years ago we went through power blackouts over the warmer months. It became a huge political issue. If we had blackouts over this summer, would you anticipate that would increase interest in your organisation—so that you go to bed and pray for a blackout?

Mr Zinn : I cannot say that joining our organisation will stop blackouts. I have seen contradictory evidence, with some saying that to reduce the liability would only save $15 or $20 on an average bill; some say the figure is far higher. It is how you frame the proposition to people as to whether they would be happy with the liability reduction.

CHAIR: We were talking earlier about dashboarding. You may need to take this on notice. Can you provide us with your view on what information should be supplied on the dashboard for consumers?

Mr Zinn : I would. We are working with a partner. I am not at liberty to say much more about that at the moment. It is very much around dashboarding. I would be happy to provide some more information. It is not just enough to have a device that tells you how much is going through at the moment or how much it is costing you. You have to do it in a way in which people want to look at the information and use it. There is a real problem with—

CHAIR: And understand it.

Mr Zinn : Yes, understand it. There is a real problem with the dashboards. I had one put in just on a trial basis. There was enormous interest the first day, but it rapidly tapered off because it is quite limited. Some of the dashboards are quite limited. Once you get really terrific user integration—this is why I talk up people who do things on smartphones, because they just have a way to do it and 'gameify' it, if you like, to draw people much more into engaging with it—that will be the important part.

CHAIR: Do you wish to table that petition?

Mr Zinn : Can I table it electronically? If we wait a few days there might be another few thousand.

CHAIR: Yes.

Mr Zinn : Thank you.

CHAIR: It was a most illuminating discussion.