Electricity network distribution business Endeavour Energy has paid seven infringement notices totalling $474,600 issued by the Australian Energy Regulator (AER) for putting vulnerable life support customers in New South Wales at risk between March 2021 and February 2022.
The distributor admitted it breached life support obligations under the National Energy Retail Rules in relation to 69 customers across its distribution network.
The breaches include failing to record that there were life support needs at the customer's premise, not sending information packs, not notifying the retailer of the customer’s life support requirements and not giving the required four-day notice of planned electricity interruptions.
The AER was concerned that these breaches were caused by Endeavour’s inadequate investment in its IT systems, processes and training.
AER Chair Clare Savage said customers using life support equipment are particularly vulnerable if disconnected from their energy supply and so it is important that these life support obligations are complied with to prevent disconnection and to ensure sufficient notice is given of planned interruptions.
“Unexpected loss of life support equipment can be a life-or-death matter,” Ms Savage said.
“Distributors like Endeavour Energy have a responsibility to protect vulnerable consumers and we will take action, if necessary, when life support customers are missing those protections they are entitled to under the law.”
Life support obligations protect those who rely on life-saving equipment such as oxygen concentrators, dialysis machines, ventilators, and other equipment needed for life support. Without power, these machines cannot function properly, which could have dangerous or even fatal consequences.
The National Energy Retail Rules require distributors to register life support customers as soon as they are advised by either the customer or retailer, and to notify the energy retailer as soon as they are advised by the customer, that life support equipment is required at the customer’s premises.
Distributors must send customers an information pack, including the number to call if there is an unexpected interruption to supply, within five business days of the customer advising of the life support requirement.
Distributors must also give customers four business days’ notice of planned outages.
The AER has accepted a court enforceable undertaking from Endeavour Energy, committing to implement new IT systems and to engage an independent expert to conduct an end-to-end review of its life support processes, controls and systems.
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.