Issue date

The Australian Energy Regulator (AER) has instituted proceedings in the Federal Court against Origin Energy Electricity Limited, Origin Energy Retail Limited and Origin Energy LPG Limited (collectively, Origin), following admissions Origin failed to comply with its life support obligations under the National Energy Retail Law and the National Energy Retail Rules (the Retail Rules).

The AER alleges, and Origin admits, that it breached the Retail Rules on more than 5,000 occasions. The breaches involved: 

  • Failing to register customers after being informed by either the customer or the relevant distributor that a person at the customer’s premises required life support equipment.
  • Failing to inform the relevant distributor that a person at the premises of certain customers required life support equipment.
  • Failing to provide customers with information packs notifying them of relevant protections and assistance. 
  • Improperly deregistering the premises of customers with a person requiring life support equipment without following all the steps required to check whether life support equipment was required. In some cases, Origin disconnected the customer’s energy supply.

As a result, some customers were unregistered and did not have the protections that the life support provisions provide for up to 188 days, while others were disconnected and without power for between one and 66 days. There was no loss of life associated with these breaches.

The alleged conduct occurred between 1 February 2019 and 12 September 2022, and impacted over 5,000 customers in Queensland, New South Wales, South Australia and the Australian Capital Territory.

AER Chair Ms Clare Savage said compliance with the Retail Rules is critical to protecting vulnerable consumers, especially those whose premises require life support equipment. 

“The Retail Rules contain the obligations retailers must meet when they are informed of the life support needs of a customer. Failure to comply with these obligations can seriously compromise the health and safety of these vulnerable customers.

“The Australian Energy Regulator has previously published guidance to help retailers and distributors understand their responsibilities when it comes to customers who rely on life support equipment. We will continue to act when obligations to support vulnerable customers are not met,” said Ms Savage.

A number of these breaches involved third party agents Origin had engaged to assist it to comply with its life support compliance obligations. Origin also admits it failed to establish the policies, systems, and procedures necessary to efficiently and effectively monitor its compliance with the requirements of the Retail Rules.

In addition to bringing these proceedings, the AER has accepted a court enforceable undertaking from Origin in which Origin admitted to an additional 1,973 breaches of the requirement to provide information packs to life support customers. 

Origin has also undertaken to make a $1 million community-based contribution to organisations which assist sections of the community who use life support equipment. 

The AER is seeking pecuniary penalties, declarations and costs. A penalty will be determined by the Court at a later date. 

Notes to Editors

Court proceedings

As the matter is now before the Court, the AER will not be making any further comment and no further documents will be made available.

The AER’s Compliance & Enforcement Priorities

Acting where there are serious issues impacting consumers experiencing vulnerability, including life support consumers, is one of the AER’s enduring Compliance and Enforcement Priorities. Read more about the AER’s 2024-25 and enduring Compliance and Enforcement Priorities.

Life support obligations

The AER published an updated Life Support Registration Guide (the Guide) in September 2021 after new retailer obligations relating to life support came into effect on 1 August 2021.

The purpose of the Guide is to assist retailers and distributors understand their responsibilities to customers relying on life support equipment under those rules.