Most energy customers buy electricity or gas directly from an energy retailer who must be authorised to sell energy by the Australian Energy Regulator. However, sometimes energy customers buy energy from an alternative seller such as the owner of the apartment block where they live or the shopping centre there they run a business. We call these alternative sellers 'exempt sellers' because, instead of being authorised, they only need to obtain a retail exemption from the AER to sell energy (usually limited to a specific site). We have a number of different classes of retail exemption for common selling situations. If the selling situation is not covered by any of these classes, someone wishing to become an exempt seller must apply to the AER for an individual exemption. We will assess the application and decide whether to grant the exemption.
Examples that would require an individual exemption include persons planning to sell energy at a site they do not own or operate and site owners planning to sell unmetered energy to tenants. Another example is an embedded network conversion, or ‘retrofit’. This is when the owner or operator of an existing building or site wants to rewire it so they can sell energy to all tenants or residents. Because customers in an embedded network can find it difficult to buy energy from anyone other than the owner or operator, we have special requirements for persons wanting a retail exemption that involves retrofitting. These requirements are there to protect the interests of the energy customers and make sure you are not worse off.
As part of our assessment of an application for an individual retail exemption, we conduct open public consultation. This gives any business or individual affected by the applicant’s proposal the opportunity to make a comment or raise their concerns. Each consultation period is at least 20 business days and anyone can make a submission. There is no fixed way to approach your submission but if you are unsure, the discussion below may help you think about how you might be affected by the application. Like applications, we generally publish submissions on our website.
We consider all submissions in making our decision to approve or refuse an application, and if we approve it, the types of conditions that we may impose on the seller. The consultation process is therefore an important part of our decision making process.
You can see all the applications that we are currently assessing by clicking on 'view open retail exemption applications' below. A pencil symbol ( ) indicates that an application is currently open for consultation. Clicking on a particular application will show you more details about that application, including the dates for consultation, how to lodge a submission and what to do if your submission contains confidential information that you do not want published.
Submissions and inquiries about retail exemptions can be directed to AERExemptions@aer.gov.au.
Your submission can address any issues that you consider important. The issues highlighted below may help you in making a submission to any application. However, if you are making a submission about a retrofit application, see also the more specific tips further down the page.
Is the application in the long term interest of energy customers?
Thinking about your home, your business or other affected customers, are you concerned that the application is not in the long term interests of energy consumers? For example, might it have an adverse impact on the:
- reliability or
- security of your energy service?
Does it promote efficient investment in energy services?
Does it promote efficient operation and use in energy services?
Will you have the same, or similar, rights and protections?
Ideally, all energy customers should have the same rights and protections whether they buy energy from an authorised retailer (who must comply with the National Energy Retail Law and National Energy Retail Rules) or a person with a retail exemption (who must comply with the conditions imposed by the AER). Customer protections provided under the Retail Law and Rules relate to billing procedures, complaint handing, disconnection procedures and flexible payment options.
Are you, or other customers, likely to be any worse off if the application for a retail exemption is granted? If you have concerns, is there anything the applicant could do to address them?
In addition to thinking about the questions above, the following discussion could also help you think about how a retrofit may affect you. You may also find it useful to read ‘Information for electricity customers in embedded networks’.
Did you willingly provide your consent to the applicant?
The owner or operator of a site where you live, or run a business, must seek your explicit informed consent before lodging an application to retrofit the site. This means that they must communicate with you about their proposal and how it may affect you and seek your agreement. Think about the following.
- Was your consent informed? Did you receive information about how you would be affected in simple language that you could understand so that you knew what you were agreeing to?
- Was your consent voluntary? Did you consent willingly or did you feel unfairly pressured to agree? Did you try to object or raise concerns?
- Did you have the capacity to provide consent? Could you understand and use the information to make a decision? Age, English literacy skills, physical or intellectual disability may affect a person’s capacity to provide consent.
How will you be able to resolve a problem with your energy services?
Residents and small business customers who buy their energy from an energy retailer can use the energy ombudsman in their state or territory to help fix a problem or complaint they have with their energy retailer. If you buy your energy from a person with a retail exemption, the energy ombudsman is not able to help you (unless your dispute is in New South Wales and in specific circumstances in South Australia). This makes it even more important for energy sellers with a retail exemption to have a good system for handling any problem you may have with your energy services.
Will you still be able to choose from a number of energy sellers?
Currently, you may have a choice of who you buy your energy from. This means that if you are not happy with the service or price they offer, you can switch. Customers in an embedded network may have difficulty buying energy from a seller other than the owner or operator of the site. This may be because of the way the site’s network has been wired or because energy retailers may not want to sell to a customer inside an embedded network.
If the retrofit allows for you to exercise a choice, and you choose to buy from an energy retailer instead of the site owner or operator, you will need to be careful that you don’t pay twice for network charges. Network charges are the fixed part of supplying energy to your home or business. Normally in an embedded network, the owner or operator of the site pays the network charges and will then bill you for your share. This is not a problem if you buy your electricity from the owner or operator of the site. However a retailer would similarly normally charge you a network charge. To make sure you don’t pay twice you should check that the energy retailer will give you an ‘energy only’ offer or that the owner or operator of the site is able come to an arrangement with the energy company about who will bill you for your network charges.
If you have any concerns that you will be worse off because of the applicant’s proposal you should talk to the applicant about them and ask how they will address them. This may include the applicant offering the same price for energy that you paid to your previous energy provider or having a dispute handling system, which is run in line with nationally recognised standards.