Consultation commences to sharpen retail compliance monitoring tools

The Australian Energy Regulator (AER) is reviewing its Compliance Procedures and Guidelines (Guidelines) to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of the reporting regime, following recent changes to the National Energy Retail Rules (Retail Rules).

The AER is seeking stakeholder input on new retailer reporting requirements in the draft Guideline. This includes new rules to improve the accuracy of customer transfers, strengthen protections for life support customers and ensure customers are notified when their fixed benefit changes or ends. The revised Guidelines require retailers to report any breaches of these new rules promptly to the AER.

“These are important new protections that are critical to ensuring customers are confident to engage in the energy market,” said AER Chair Paula Conboy.

“The Guideline also proposes increasing the frequency of reporting for alleged breaches of the explicit informed consent requirements. We still see poor conduct in relation to unsolicited sales with customers not providing their consent to switch retailers.

“These are a fundamental protection and retailers must make sure that customers fully understand what they are agreeing to” said Ms Conboy.

The Guidelines are an important tool to identify emerging or systemic compliance issues that may warrant further action including enforcement action.

Submissions on the draft Guidelines are due on Tuesday 17 July 2018.

Background

The AER is consulting on incorporating the following new rules into the self-reporting framework.

Strengthening protections for customers requiring life support equipment – new rules to ensure customers relying on life support equipment will be entitled to protections from the time they first inform either their retailer or distributor that they rely on life support equipment. The rule modifies the minimum requirements for retailers and distributors to register and deregister life support customers.

Notification of the end of a fixed benefit period – new rule to require retailers to notify small customers of changes to benefits in their retail electricity and gas contracts.

Improving the accuracy of customer transfers – new rules to prescribe a process for addressing transfers that occurred without customer consent.

About the Guideline

The Compliance and Procedures Guidelines establish a self-reporting framework that requires businesses to report any potential non-compliance with certain obligations under the National Energy Retail Law (Retail Law) and Retail Rules in accordance with timeframes set out in the Guidelines.

Businesses must have policies, systems and procedures in place to monitor compliance with reportable obligations under the self-reporting framework. Reportable obligations are classified according to the nature of the obligation and the risk of customer impact in the event of a potential breach.

Requirements under the Guidelines are binding on businesses and any failure is a breach of the Retail Law. In the event of a contravention, the AER may utilise its investigation and enforcement powers, including for example, infringement notices, compliance audits, enforceable undertakings and civil proceedings.

The Guidelines were last revised in December 2017.

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 do not set the prices consumers pay.

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: 
18 June 2018
AER reference: 
NR 18/18