Three electricity distribution businesses, Essential Energy, Ausgrid, and TasNetworks, have paid penalties of $20 000 each, following the issuing of infringement notices by the Australian Energy Regulator (AER) in relation to incidents in which customers known to require life support equipment unexpectedly lost electricity supply.
“The unexpected loss of supply can have serious, potentially fatal, consequences for customers who require life support equipment, making compliance with life support obligations by energy distribution businesses a priority area for the Australian Energy Regulator,” AER Chair Paula Conboy said.
“The AER will continue to closely monitor compliance with the life support rules and take appropriate enforcement action where businesses fail to comply with these important obligations,” Ms Conboy said.
Essential Energy, Ausgrid, and TasNetworks reported these incidents to the AER pursuant to their reporting obligations under the National Energy Retail Law and National Energy Retail Rules (the Retail Law and Retail Rules).
The payment of a penalty specified in an infringement notice is not an admission of a contravention of the Retail Rules. The AER can issue an infringement notice where it has reason to believe a business has contravened a civil penalty provision of the Retail Law and Rules.
Essential Energy, Ausgrid and TasNetworks are electricity distribution businesses that supply customers in New South Wales (Essential Energy & Ausgrid) and Tasmania (TasNetworks). Under the Retail Law and Rules, life support customers in New South Wales, the Australian Capital Territory, Tasmania, and South Australia have a range of protections.
The Retail Law and Rules set out key protections and obligations for energy customers and the retail and distribution businesses they buy their energy from. The AER monitors and enforces compliance with the Retail Law and the Rules. The Rules require particular protections for customers registered as requiring any of the following life support equipment:
- an oxygen concentrator;
- an intermittent peritoneal dialysis machine;
- a kidney dialysis machine;
- a chronic positive airways pressure respirator;
- crigler najjar syndrome phototherapy equipment;
- a ventilator for life support;
- in relation to a particular customer - any other equipment that a registered medical practitioner certifies is required for a person residing at the customer’s premises for life support.
Customers who are reliant on life support equipment should contact their retailer and distributor. Premises registered with life support equipment are subject to a range of protections under the Retail Law and Rules, including strict controls on de-energising life support customers, requirements that distributors provide notice of planned interruptions to energy supply and information to assist customers to prepare a plan of action in case of an unplanned interruption.
To be eligible for these protections, customers must provide their energy retailer or distributor with confirmation from a registered medical practitioner that a person residing at the customer’s premises requires medical life equipment.