EnergyAustralia has been ordered by the Federal Court to pay penalties totalling $12 million for failing to comply with life support obligations for its customers who rely on life-saving health equipment.
It is the largest penalty ever imposed for breaches of the national energy retail law, in proceedings brought by the Australian Energy Regulator (AER).
EnergyAustralia admitted to failing to register thousands of life-support customers and failing to notify energy distributors as soon as possible when advised that the customer used life support equipment, as well as other breaches of the life support obligations. This conduct occurred over a number of years from 2018.
AER Chair Ms Clare Savage described the penalty as 12 million reasons for all retailers and distributors to ensure they have the right systems and processes in place to comply with their legal obligations and protect consumers who rely on life-support equipment.
She said EnergyAustralia’s contraventions of the life support rules were serious on multiple fronts; the number of customers affected; the duration, and the potential life-threatening risks to thousands of consumers in vulnerable circumstances.
“The $12 million penalty imposed by the Court sends a strong message to all retailers and distributors that they must comply with their life support responsibilities under the law,” Ms Savage said.
“Life support obligations 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.”
EnergyAustralia also admitted that it had failed to establish policies, systems and procedures for registering and de-registering a premises requiring life support equipment.
“EnergyAustralia’s breaches were consequences of a failure to prioritise, fund and implement appropriate systems, policies and procedures with respect to its life support obligations.
“The AER will not hesitate to take enforcement action when there is evidence of serious non-compliance with the life-support obligations. This is a key part of our role in protecting consumers experiencing these vulnerabilities,” Ms Savage said.
Life-support requirements are designed to protect those who rely on life-saving equipment– for example ventilators, oxygen concentrators, dialysis machines and CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) machines, among others. Without power, many of these machines cannot function properly, which could lead to catastrophic consequences for the consumer.
Under national energy retail law, retailers are required to register life support customers as soon as possible after they are advised by either the customer or distributor that the customer requires life support equipment. They are also expected to provide these customers with relevant information including the number to call if there is an unexpected interruption to supply.
More information about the rules and regulations surrounding life-support requirements can be found in the Life Support Registration Guide on the AER website.