AER takes action to protect against wrongful disconnections

Origin has paid penalties of $120,000 after being issued with six infringement notices by the Australian Energy Regulator (AER) in relation to alleged wrongful disconnections under the National Energy Retail Rules.

Due to an IT system error, Origin disconnected customers who had paid all their outstanding bills. Some customers did not have their energy supply restored for a number of days.

AER Chair Clare Savage said that the AER closely monitors energy companies to ensure they are following the rules.

“Disconnecting a premise is one of the most disruptive steps an energy retailer can take. Protecting customers from wrongful disconnection will always be a key priority for the AER.

“Retailers must have adequate systems in place to ensure disconnections only occur when permitted by the National Energy Retail Rules.

“Origin offered affected customers a fixed payment of $142 but this may not have compensated for actual losses suffered. It is not acceptable for customers to have to pay for a hotel or replace the food in their fridge because their electricity has been cut off through no fault of their own,” said Ms Savage.

Ms Savage warned that the AER would take a dim view of further wrongful disconnections by Origin, or any other retailer.

The AER recently emphasised through its Statement of Expectations 3 the need for retailers to provide extra protections to customers during the pandemic.

Notes to Editors

The AER can issue an infringement notice where it has reasonable grounds to believe a business has contravened a civil penalty provision of the National Energy Retail Rules.

While the payment of infringement notices does not constitute an admission of liability by Origin, it does preclude the AER from taking any further action in relation to the alleged conduct.

About the AER

The Australian Energy Regulator (AER) works to make all Australian energy consumers better off, now and in the future. 

  • We regulate electricity networks and covered gas pipelines, in all jurisdictions except Western Australia. We set the amount of revenue that network businesses can recover from customers for using these networks.
  • We enforce the laws for the National Electricity Market and spot gas markets in southern and eastern Australia. We monitor and report on the conduct of energy businesses and the effectiveness of competition.
  • We protect the interests of household and small business consumers by enforcing the Retail Law. Our retail energy market functions cover New South Wales, South Australia, Tasmania, the ACT and Queensland.
  • We drive effective competition where it is feasible and provide effective regulation where it is not. We equip consumers to participate effectively, including through our Energy Made Easy website, and protect those who are unable to safeguard their own interests. We use our expertise to inform debate about Australia’s energy future.
Issued date: 
12 November 2020
AER reference: 
NR 39/20
AER Media 0466 409 921