Essential Energy and TasNetworks to improve processes to protect life support customers

Electricity distribution businesses, Essential Energy and TasNetworks have each committed to improve procedures and processes relating to life support customers following two separate incidents where a customer known to require life support equipment unexpectedly lost electricity supply. The businesses also each paid a penalty of $20 000 following the issue of infringement notices in relation to the incidents.

Under the National Energy Retail Rules (the Rules), distribution businesses must have processes to accurately identify the location of life support customers and take steps to minimise the risks associated with interrupting energy supply to these customers.

“The AER welcomes these commitments from Essential Energy and TasNetworks to improve their procedures to better protect life support customers,” AER Chair Paula Conboy said.

“The unexpected loss of supply can have serious, potentially fatal, consequences for customers who require life support equipment, making compliance with life support obligations by energy distribution businesses a priority area for the Australian Energy Regulator,” Ms Conboy said.

“The AER will continue to closely monitor compliance with the life support requirement of the National Energy Retail Rules by these and other businesses, and will not hesitate to take appropriate enforcement action where businesses fail to comply with these critically important obligations,” Ms Conboy said.

The payment of a penalty specified in an infringement notice is not an admission of a contravention of the Rules. The AER can issue an infringement notice where it has reason to believe a business has contravened a civil penalty provision of the Rules.

Background

Essential Energy and TasNetworks are electricity distribution businesses that supply customers in NSW and Tasmania respectively.

Under the National Energy Retail Law (the NERL) and the Rules, life support customers in New South Wales, the Australian Capital Territory, Tasmania, South Australia and Queensland have a range of protections.

The NERL and the Rules set out key protections and obligations for energy customers and the retail and distribution businesses they buy their energy from. The AER monitors and enforces compliance with the NERL and the Rules.

The Rules provide protections for customers registered as requiring any of the following life support equipment:

  • an oxygen concentrator;
  • an intermittent peritoneal dialysis machine;
  • a kidney dialysis machine;
  • a chronic positive airways pressure respirator;
  • crigler najjar syndrome phototherapy equipment;
  • a ventilator for life support;
  • in relation to a particular customer - any other equipment that a registered medical practitioner certifies is required for a person residing at the customer’s premises for life support.

Customers who are reliant on life support equipment should contact their retailer and distributor. Premises registered with life support equipment are subject to a range of protections under the NERL and the Rules, including strict controls on de-energising life support customers, requirements that distributors provide notice of planned interruptions to energy supply and information to assist customers to prepare a plan of action in case of an unplanned interruption.

To be eligible for these protections, customers must provide their energy retailer or distributor with confirmation from a registered medical practitioner that a person residing at the customer’s premises requires medical life equipment.

Sector: 
Segment: 
Issued date: 
2 December 2015
AER reference: 
NR 25/15
Contact: 
AER Media inquiries 1300 138 917