Customer Hardship Policy Guideline

Segment: 
Status: 
Date initiated: 
8 November 2018
Date completed: 
29 March 2019
Effective date: 
2 April 2019
Contact: 
General enquiries - Consumer and Policy AERConsumerandPolicy@aer.gov.au
AER reference: 
63582
64604

Overview

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 Guideline outlines important responsibilities that retailers will need to comply with when they submit a new or varied customer hardship policy to the AER. 

On 29 March 2019, the AER published its Customer Hardship Policy Guideline. It was informed by stakeholder responses to two AER issues papers and consultation on the draft Guideline, including a Stakeholder Workshop on 25 February 2019. The Guideline is accompanied by the Notice of Final Instrument, which explains the development of the Guideline. 

Retailers need to comply with the Guideline when submitting a new or varied customer hardship policy from 2 April 2019

'Easy English' standardised statements

Under the Guideline, retailers are responsible for ensuring customer information about hardship programs is accessible. To assist retailers and encourage better customer information, we have developed an 'Easy English' translation of the standardised statements in the Guideline. Retailers, consumer advocates and support services may wish to use this resource to support accessible communications with a broad range of customers, including people with low English literacy and cognitive disabilities. 

Scope (Aust) Ltd prepared this Easy English resource for the AER, as a guide for retailers. This resource can be used as an example when retailers and others are creating accessible communications for customers.

Please note: Scope requires that the images, Easy English symbol and Scope logo are not used in retailer communications without Scope’s prior permission. The content cannot be directly reproduced, and should be adjusted to fit an individual retailer’s circumstances.

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.

4 February 2019 - the AER released the draft Customer Hardship Policy Guideline for consultation. Consultation closed on 4 March 2019.

Background

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.