Ausgrid and ActewAGL Distribution pay penalties for alleged breaches of life support rules

Electricity distribution businesses Ausgrid and ActewAGL Distribution have each paid $20 000 in penalties for alleged breaches of their obligations to life support customers in NSW and the ACT under the National Energy Retail Rules.

The Australian Energy Regulator issued infringement notices following separate incidents where customers known to require life support equipment unexpectedly lost electricity supply during planned works.

The AER alleged that the affected life support customers did not receive the required notice of at least four business days, in writing, of a planned interruption to their electricity supply.

“Protecting customers requiring life support equipment is an absolute priority for the AER,” AER Chair Paula Conboy said.

“Customers on life support equipment are particularly vulnerable as any unexpected loss of supply can have dangerous, and even fatal, consequences,” she added.

“Whenever we see evidence of distributors failing to comply with these important obligations, we will take appropriate action,” said Ms Conboy.

The payment of a penalty specified in an infringement notice is not an admission of a contravention of the National Energy 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 National Energy Retail Rules.

Background

The National Energy Retail Law and Retail Rules (which apply in New South Wales, the Australia Capital Territory, Queensland, South Australia and Tasmania) set out key protections and obligations for energy customers requiring life support equipment and the retail and distribution businesses they buy their energy from.

The National Energy Retail Rules require that when a premise is registered as having life support equipment, customers are required to be given:

  • general advice that there may be a planned or unplanned interruption to the supply,
  • information to assist them prepare a plan of action in the case of an unplanned interruption,
  • an emergency telephone number for the distributor at no more than the cost of a local call, and
  • at least four business days written notice of any planned 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 life support equipment.

Ausgrid is an electricity distribution business that supplies customers in New South Wales.  In June 2017, Ausgrid paid $100 000 in penalties in relation to five alleged breaches of the life support obligations and has provided the AER with a court enforceable undertaking. As part of this undertaking, Ausgrid has committed to improving its systems and processes for managing its life support obligations.

ActewAGL Distribution is an electricity and gas distribution business that supplies customers in the ACT and New South Wales. In 2015, ActewAGL Distribution paid $20 000 in penalties for failing to provide the required information to life support customers at the time of registering their premises as having life support equipment.

About the AER

The Australian Energy Regulator regulates energy markets and networks under national legislation and rules in eastern and southern Australia, as well as networks in the Northern Territory. Its functions include:

  • monitoring wholesale electricity and gas markets to ensure energy businesses comply with the legislation and rules, and taking enforcement action where necessary;
  • setting the amount of revenue that network businesses can recover from customers for using networks (electricity poles and wires and gas pipelines) that transport energy;
  • regulating retail energy markets in Queensland, New South Wales, South Australia, Tasmania (electricity only), and the ACT;
  • operating the Energy Made Easy website, which provides a retail price comparator and other information for energy consumers;
  • publishing information on energy markets, including the annual State of the Energy Market report, to assist participants and the wider community.
Issued date: 
8 September 2017
AER reference: 
NR 26/17
Contact: 
AER Media 0466 409 921 media@aer.gov.au