Alinta Energy has paid penalties totalling $200,000 after being issued with 10 infringement notices by the Australian Energy Regulator (AER) for putting vulnerable customers at risk.
AER Chair Clare Savage said customers using life support equipment were particularly vulnerable to disconnection of their energy supply and must be protected under the National Energy Retail Rules (Retail Rules).
“Alinta Energy was issued $200,000 of infringement notices after admitting that on more than 1500 occasions it breached the requirements around the registration of life support customers. This placed these customers at risk of having their power disconnected. The AER also accepted a court enforceable undertaking from Alinta Energy,” Ms Savage said.
“While no customers were disconnected – vulnerable customers did not receive this important protection which could have dangerous and even fatal consequences.”
“Retailers have a responsibility to act in the interests of their customers and support their most vulnerable customers. Compliance with these important protections is essential.”
Between February 2019 and February 2020, Alinta Energy breached the life support provisions of the Retail Rules in NSW, Queensland, and South Australia by failing to:
- register customers’ premises as requiring life support equipment after receiving advice from the customer,
- provide information packs within five business days to customers who had registered their life support equipment requirements with either Alinta Energy or their relevant distributor,
- notify the energy distributor that customers residing at premises required life support equipment, and
- provide a de-registration notice to customers as required prior to de-registering the customer.
Alinta Energy has implemented some corrective actions including engaging an independent auditor to conduct an end-to-end review of its life support systems and processes.
Alinta Energy has implemented a Compliance Improvement Action Plan and in line with the enforceable undertaking it will be subject to an independent audit.
The Retail Rules require energy retailers and distributors to keep a register of all customers who use life support equipment to protect them from disconnection. This register must be kept up to date and customers should only be removed from the register where life support equipment is no longer required.
The AER encourages anyone requiring life support equipment to contact their energy retailer or distributor and make sure they are registered.
For more information about life support protections, read the AER Life support registration guide.
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 Australian Capital Territory 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.