Consumer matters
Issue date
AER reference
NR 27/23

The Australian Energy Regulator has instituted proceedings in the Federal Court against CAM Engineering and Construction Pty Ltd (CAM Engineering) for allegedly failing to become a member of the Energy and Water Ombudsman NSW (EWON) scheme, in breach of section 112(2) of the National Energy Retail Law.

As the developer of Cooranbong Gardens retirement village in NSW, CAM Engineering holds an exemption to sell and supply electricity to residents through the embedded network located at the village, and must comply with the AER’s Retail Exempt Selling Guideline (Guideline).

CAM Engineering obtained its retail exemption on 11 March 2021, but did not join EWON until 22 July 2022, despite reminders and warnings. During this 16 month period, energy customers of the village did not have access to the important dispute resolution service that EWON provides.

The AER had previously issued CAM Engineering with an infringement notice for the alleged breach. CAM Engineering did not pay the penalty specified in the infringement notice.

AER Board Member Mr Justin Oliver said the matter goes to the heart of ensuring every energy consumer is offered the protections they are entitled to under the energy rules and laws.

“The AER’s Retail Exempt Selling Guideline sets out important conditions to ensure consumers in exempt networks are provided crucial protections otherwise only available to consumers of authorised retailers.

“Failure to comply with the conditions in the Guideline denies consumers these important protections and has the potential to cause harm in an environment where consumers are already experiencing increased prices and many are facing financial hardship,” said Mr Oliver.

The AER is seeking declarations, penalties, an order requiring corrective disclosure and costs.

Note to editors

The AER’s power to issue infringement notices

The AER can issue infringement notices when it believes on reasonable grounds that a person or business has contravened certain provisions of the National Energy Retail Law.

The person or business can choose whether or not to comply with the infringement notice (by paying the penalty specified in the notice) and is entitled to disregard the infringement notice and to defend any proceedings in respect of the alleged breach.

The payment of an infringement notice does not constitute an admission of liability by the person or business.

Regulatory framework

The AER alleges that CAM Engineering failed to comply with condition 17 of the AER’s Retail Exempt Selling Guideline between March 2021 and July 2022. Condition 17 of the Guideline relates to the obligation for exempt sellers to join an energy ombudsman scheme in the jurisdiction where they sell energy. Failing to comply with this obligation is a breach of section 112(2) of the Retail Law.

Improving outcomes for consumers in embedded networks

Improving outcomes for consumers in embedded networks, including by enabling access to ombudsman schemes, was a compliance and enforcement priority for the AER in 2022-23.