The Australian Energy Regulator is working to ensure consumers receive the full benefit of Australia’s retail energy laws.
“Building consumer confidence in retail gas and electricity markets is an important goal for the AER,” AER Chairman Andrew Reeves said.
“Part of achieving that is ensuring that energy retailers and distributors comply with their legal obligations.”
The National Energy Retail Law includes protections for vulnerable consumers, including those who need electricity for life support equipment at their homes.
“The AER takes the life support obligations in the Retail Law very seriously,” Mr Reeves said.
“We follow up all breaches of these obligations and take the necessary steps to ensure companies are complying.”
In 2012 the AER penalised a distributor $40,000 for incorrectly disconnecting the premises of a customer with life support equipment. The distributor was also required to implement a compliance program to improve its practices.
Ensuring consumers have access to the right information about their energy supply is also a focus for the AER. In 2012 the AER reviewed the websites of energy retailers to make sure that information required by law was available. Where we identified information was lacking, the retailers changed their websites as a result.
“It is important that consumers have access to the right information to help them make the best choice of energy provider,” Mr Reeves said.
Energy bills are also an issue for the AER.
“Energy bills are an important part of a household budget, and it’s important that consumers get the information they need about their energy use.”
“We’ve noticed that billing is an area where retailers could improve, and as a result, we have investigations underway to ensure that happens,” Mr Reeves said.
These findings are included in the AER’s first annual retail law compliance report, which describes the compliance activities the AER undertook during 2012-13, and the compliance issues the AER observed. The report covers the period from 1 July 2012 to 30 June 2013, when energy retailers and distributors in the Australian Capital Territory, Tasmania and South Australia adopted the Retail Law.