Origin Energy: alleged hardship breaches

Category: 
Instituted civil proceedings
Release date: 
24 August 2021
Related provisions: 

Sections 43(2)(c), 46, 47 and 50 of the National Energy Retail Law and rules 71(1), 72(1), 107(2), 111(2) and 116(1)(d) of the National Energy Retail Rules.

Overview

The Australian Energy Regulator (AER) has instituted proceedings in the Federal Court alleging that Origin Energy Electricity Ltd (Origin) breached the National Energy Retail Law and the National Energy Retail Rules in relation to systemic failures in the automated processes Origin used to administer its hardship program, and failure to comply with its own hardship policies in relation to 18 customers experiencing payment difficulties.

The AER alleges that Origin:

  • breached its own hardship policies, including by failing to act fairly and reasonably, unilaterally and automatically changing customer’s payment plans, and cancelling customers’ payment plans;
  • failed to inform customers of its hardship policy where it appeared to it that non-payment of a bill is due to hardship or as soon as customers were identified as hardship customers;
  • failed to offer and apply payment plans to hardship customers that have regard to customers’ capacity to pay;
  • disconnected customers without having offered them two payment plans in the previous 12 months and/or disconnected customers that were adhering to a payment plan; and
  • disconnected hardship customers not as a last resort.

The AER is seeking pecuniary penalties, declarations, injunctions, an order requiring implementation of a compliance program, a community service order, and costs.