- Accepting submissions
On 8 November 2018, the AER released an issues paper seeking feedback from stakeholders on standardised statements for use in customer hardship policies. The paper is the first step in seeking stakeholder views on standardised statements that the AER considers should be included in all retailer customer hardship policies. The paper details the purpose, scope and operation of the proposed standardised statements and requests stakeholders respond to specific questions.
This consultation is focused on the standardised statements only. Subject to the final rule to be made by the AEMC in response to a proposal by the AER for binding Hardship Guidelines, the AER expects to undertake additional consultation on this important issue in the coming months.
The National Energy Retail Law (Retail Law) requires that retailers have in place customer hardship policies, the purpose of which is to identify residential customers experiencing payment difficulties due to hardship, and to assist those customers to better manage their energy bills on an ongoing basis.
In March 2018, the AER submitted a rule change request to the AEMC which proposed amendments to broaden the current rule 75 of the National Energy Retail Rules (Retail Rules) to strengthen existing protections for customers in hardship.
In response to the rule change proposal by the AER, the AEMC released preferable draft rules on 6 September 2018 aimed at strengthening hardship protections. The draft rules require the AER to develop, maintain and publish Hardship Guidelines (in accordance with the retail consultation procedure) that contain, among other things, specific 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.
While the final rule is yet to be made, based on the more preferable draft rules (including the timeframes indicated in those for the broader process), we anticipate the AER will be required to develop Hardship Guidelines which will contain prescribed standardised statements.