AER shines a light on consumer vulnerability

AER Chair Clare Savage last night launched new research on regulatory approaches to consumer vulnerability, prepared for the AER by the Consumer Policy Research Centre (CPRC).

The report was launched at the Dr Gill Owen Forum on fairness for consumers in the energy transition, hosted by the AER at the Melbourne Museum.

Launching the report, Ms Savage said that regulatory environments must evolve to ensure all consumers benefit from investment in new energy resources and technologies.

"As the energy market evolves, so too must the regulatory environment. While the market continues its transformation, we at the AER are continuing our thinking about what that means for us and how we build on the strong base Gill helped us create", Ms Savage said.

About the new research report

Exploring regulatory approaches to consumer vulnerability: A report for the AER examines the opportunities and benefits of different approaches to address consumer vulnerability in regulated markets. It seeks to learn from different experiences and approaches in Australia and internationally.

The report provides a contemporary understanding of consumer vulnerability, looks at why regulators are focusing on this in regulatory design, and provides some lessons and opportunities for change. It will be of interest to a wide range of regulators, policy-makers, industry participants, consumer advocates and consumer representatives.

Importantly, the report recognises that understanding the lived experience of consumers in markets is key to delivering effective regulatory responses to vulnerabilities. The report gives an up-to-date snapshot of the lived experience of consumer vulnerability. For example:

  • 44% of Australians have literacy levels below what is considered enough to get by in everyday life
  • 1 in 5 have a disability
  • 2 in 3 experience some form of financial stress at some point in their life
  • 1 in 5 speak a language other than English at home, and
  • 1 in 6 women have experienced physical and, or sexual violence by a current or previous partner.

We are now using the report to inform our thinking about where to next.

To keep up-to-date, email the team at AERConsumerandPolicy@aer.gov.au

About the Dr Gill Owen Forum

The Forum commemorated Dr Gill Owen and her contribution to improving energy consumer outcomes. Dr Owen was instrumental in helping the AER establish its Consumer Challenge Panel and was a founding member. She was also involved in many other projects focusing on sustainability and vulnerable consumers. The AER was pleased to host the Forum this year in Melbourne, noting Gill Owen was instrumental in guiding some of our early thinking on representation of consumer interests in our work.

The winners of the Gill Owen Essay Prize for 2020 were also announced at the Forum.

Issued date: 
26 February 2020
AER reference: 
AC 17/20
Contact: 
AER General inquiries AERInquiry@aer.gov.au