Under the National Energy Retail Rules (Retail Rules), rule 75A(1) requires the AER to develop, maintain and publish a binding and enforceable Customer Hardship Policy Guideline (Guideline).
The purpose of this Guideline is to strengthen protections for customers experiencing hardship. The draft Guideline outlines important responsibilities that retailers will need to comply with when submitting a new or varied customer hardship policy from 2 April 2019.
On 4 February 2019, the AER released the draft Customer Hardship Policy Guideline for consultation. Views are sought about whether its provisions will improve outcomes for customers experiencing hardship, and whether there are serious impediments to retailers implementing the Guideline.
Interested parties are invited to make submissions by Monday 4 March 2019.
Progress to date
8 November 2018 - the AER released an issues paper seeking feedback from stakeholders on standardised statements for use in customer hardship policies. Consultation closed 7 December 2018.
10 December 2018 - the AER released an issues paper seeking feedback from stakeholders on the development of the Hardship Guideline. Consultation closed 14 January 2019.
Stakeholder feedback will inform the development of the final Guideline.
In November 2018, the AEMC made a final rule determination in response to a rule change request submitted by the AER. The rule change request proposed amendments to broaden the current rule 75 of the National Energy Retail Rules (Retail Rules) to strengthen existing protections for customers in hardship.
The final rules require the AER to develop, maintain and publish a Hardship Guideline (in accordance with the retail consultation procedure) that contains:
- the processes, timeframes and requirements to be complied with by retailers in connection with the approval or variation of their hardship policies by the AER, and
- standardised statements of action for inclusion in hardship policies to give effect to the minimum requirements under the Retail Law and provide guidance for customers on their rights and obligations.