The Australian Energy Regulator’s (AER) annual compliance and enforcement report for the 2021-22 period highlights that energy businesses paid out more than $35M in civil penalties brought about by enforcement action taken by the AER.
Significant compliance and enforcement outcomes, some with substantially higher penalties under a new penalty regime, were delivered in 2021–22, with 40% of those outcomes relating to protecting life support customers and ensuring customers in financial difficulty are offered sustainable and affordable payment plans.
AER Chair, Ms Clare Savage said the record amounts illustrate the AER’s ongoing commitment to take compliance and enforcement action where there have been serious issues impacting vulnerable consumers or the energy system more broadly. Outcomes achieved will vary from year to year as the AER is committed to using the range of tools best suited to solving a particular problem.
“When we see customers not receiving the required protections, we act decisively using all of our compliance and enforcement tools,” Ms Savage said. “This type of action not only addresses conduct of concern by one business, it sends an important message to others about the importance of compliance with the law.”
“Compliance with national energy laws ensures that important protections are delivered, and consumer rights are respected. It gives consumers and energy market participants the confidence that markets are working effectively and in their long-term interests.”
The compliance and enforcement outcomes are a key tool in the AER’s regulatory toolkit, aimed at ensuring energy consumers are better off, now and in the future.
The focus of the AER’s 2022-23 compliance and enforcement priorities will continue to be on market regulatory responsibilities and enforcement work that protects consumers.
This year’s priorities will focus on effective identification of consumers in financial difficulty, and ensuring registered generators comply with offers, dispatch instructions, bidding rules, and provide accurate and timely information to the market operator, particularly at times of significant market events.
In addition, improving outcomes for consumers in embedded networks and the timely and accurate disclosure of gas information to ensure competition in all aspects of the energy market is vital to the availability and affordability of energy for households and businesses.
“We recognise that it is now more important than ever that the AER remains vigilant and takes timely and proportionate enforcement action when harms arise, as our energy market continues to transition,” Ms Savage said.