Energy businesses that fail to comply with the rules protecting life support customers will be held to account by the Australian Energy Regulator (AER).
The AER has commenced Federal Court proceedings against EnergyAustralia Pty Ltd for allegedly breaching the National Energy Retail Rules (the Retail Rules) by failing to comply with life support requirements.
The AER also alleges that EnergyAustralia failed to comply with an enforceable undertaking provided to the AER following reports of breaches of the life support obligations.
AER Chair Clare Savage said that robust enforcement ensuring compliance with the law is vital for building consumer trust that the energy market rules are working and businesses are doing the right thing.
“The AER takes the life support obligations very seriously. The obligations to register life support customers are critical to ensure that customers receive important protections under the law, including protections relating to continuity of energy supply and sufficient notice of any planned interruptions,” Ms Savage said.
The Rules require retailers to register life support customers once they are advised by the customer or receive notice from the distributor that they require life support equipment.
Retailers are also required to provide these customers with relevant information including the number to call if there is an unexpected interruption to supply.
The AER alleges that from February 2018, EnergyAustralia did not comply with these Retail Rules in relation to a significant number of customers by failing to:
- register customers that required life support equipment, when advised by the customer or notified by the distributor;
- notify the distributor that the customer required life support equipment, when advised by the customer;
- provide required information to life support customers within the specified timeframes; and
- keep the registration details of its customers up to date.
The Retail Rules also require retailers to establish policies for the registration and de-registration of life support premises. The AER alleges that EnergyAustralia failed to do so.
EnergyAustralia gave the AER an enforceable undertaking in August 2019 committing to:
- register life support customers as soon as possible and, at the latest, within one business day of advice; and
- review all calls from the previous day to identify any missed life support customers.
The AER alleges that EnergyAustralia has failed to comply with these commitments.
AER Chair Clare Savage said energy businesses should consider themselves on notice when it comes to life support obligations.
“These obligations are in place to protect vulnerable customers and compliance with the life support requirements is an important enforcement priority for the AER.
“All energy businesses must ensure they are fully complying with all of their life support obligations or they will face strong enforcement action from the AER,” Ms Savage said.
The AER encourages anyone requiring life support equipment to contact their energy retailer or distributor to confirm that they are registered.
Notes to editors
The AER is seeking penalties, declarations that EnergyAustralia contravened the life support obligations and the undertaking an order directing EnergyAustralia to comply with the undertaking, and costs.
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 ACT 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.