NSW electricity distributors pay $100 000 in penalties regarding their life support obligations

Three New South Wales distribution businesses - Essential Energy, Endeavour Energy, and Ausgrid - have paid penalties totaling $100 000 following the issue of infringement notices by the Australian Energy Regulator in relation to incidents in which customers known to require life support equipment lost electricity supply unexpectedly.

Infringement notice penalties are $20 000 per notice. The AER issued one infringement notice to Ausgrid, two infringement notices to Endeavour Energy and two infringement notices to Essential Energy.

“Ensuring that businesses meet their obligations to customers registered with life support equipment is a clear priority for the AER. Life support customers depend upon their energy supply to power important medical equipment,” AER Chair Paula Conboy said.

“The AER will continue to closely monitor compliance with the life support rules and take enforcement action where appropriate,” Ms Conboy said.

“The unexpected loss of supply can cause serious harm to customers who require life support equipment.”

Essential Energy, Endeavour Energy, and Ausgrid reported these incidents to the AER pursuant to their reporting obligations under the National Energy Retail Law and National Energy Retail Rules (the Retail Law and Rules).

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 Retail Law and 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 this equipment.

“If someone in your home is using medical life support equipment, make sure you let your energy suppliers know. Your energy retailer and distributor can tell you what assistance is available to you and help you to access it,” Ms Conboy said.

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

Background

Essential Energy, Endeavour Energy and Ausgrid are electricity distribution businesses that supply customers in New South Wales. Under the Retail Law and Rules, life support customers in New South Wales, the Australian Capital Territory, Tasmania, and South Australia have a range of protections.

The Retail Law and 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 Retail Law and the Rules.

The Rules require particular 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.
Sector: 
Issued date: 
2 February 2015
AER reference: 
NR 002/15
Contact: 
Infocentre general enquiries 1300 302 502 AERInquiry@aer.gov.au