ESC Review of the Payment Difficulty Framework

ESC Review of the Payment Difficulty Framework

AU Energy Compliance
In January 2019, the payment difficulty framework commenced in Victoria to ensure that disconnection for non-payment is a last resort and that vulnerable customers are supported to pay for their energy usage. After two years of operation, the payment difficulty framework remains the most stringent customer protection framework in the country and has been considered a success by the Essential Services Commission (ESC). Now the ESC has commenced a review to evaluate and assess the operation of the framework in meeting its objective. The ESC does not intend for the review to result in significant reforms to code obligations or to revisit the underlying rationale of the framework. Rather, the ESC seeks to provide more actionable guidance on the framework. The aim of the review is to: Identify issues with…
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Opportunity to shape energy bills of the future

Opportunity to shape energy bills of the future

AU Energy Compliance
On 2 September 2021, the AER made a call for submissions on issues that will inform the AER Bill Contents and Billing Requirements Guideline (Guideline). Submissions are due by Wednesday, 22 September 2021. The purpose of the Guideline is to provide retailers with guidance on preparing and issuing bills to make it easier for residential and small customers to understand billing information. The new Guideline will be published by 1 April 2022, and compliance will be mandatory for all retailers. Changes resulting from Guideline will appear on consumer bills from August 2022. The Guideline development process has been informed by industry research. The AER, in collaboration with the Behavioural Economics Team of the Australian Government (BETA) has released new consumer insights and research about consumer billing comprehension, preferences and behaviours.…
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An Embedded Network (Guideline) Refresher

An Embedded Network (Guideline) Refresher

AU Energy Compliance
If you own, operate or control a private embedded network, you will need to ensure that you hold the exemptions you require. In all of the Eastern States of Australia, this will mean that you will need a network exemption issued pursuant to the AER's Electricity NSP Registration Exemption Guideline (Network Exemption Guideline). In this post, we answer some of the most common questions when it comes to embedded networks that are regulated by the Network Exemption Guideline. When is a Network Exemption Required? Anyone who owns, controls or operates an embedded network will require registration or an exemption. As the AER notes, even the simple act of allowing a cleaning contract to plug in a vacuum in your office may be considered to be providing a distribution service under…
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Automated compliance under the microscope? AER initiates proceedings against Origin in the Federal Court.

Automated compliance under the microscope? AER initiates proceedings against Origin in the Federal Court.

AU Energy Compliance
This week the AER announced that it had initiated proceedings in the Federal Court of Australia. The AER alleges systemic failures in the automated processes that Origin is using concerning customers experiencing hardship and payment difficulties, in breach of the National Energy Retail Law and Rules. The AER state that Origin has implemented systems that result in Origin making unilateral changes to customers’ payment plans, failing to consider customers’ capacity to pay when establishing or changing payment plans, and cancelling payment plans in breach of Origin’s own hardship policies. Compliance is a heavy burden for those operating in the energy sector. Combined with hardship resulting from COVID and a motivated regulator with a range of new enforcement powers, we are destined to see more and more showdowns of this nature. Lessons…
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Minutes of Energy Ministers’ Meetings could become publicly available following a recent decision on the status of National Cabinet

Minutes of Energy Ministers’ Meetings could become publicly available following a recent decision on the status of National Cabinet

AU Energy Compliance
A recent decision of the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT) will be welcomed by those in the energy industry seeking clarity on the nation’s changeable climate change and energy policy. The decision of Patrick and Secretary, Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet (Freedom of Information) [2021] AATA 271 (Patrick Decision) upheld a claim by Senator Rex Patrick to access certain National Cabinet documents under Freedom of Information (FOI) legislation. What is National Cabinet? The Prime Minister, along with the other State and Territory Ministers, established the National Cabinet on 13 March 2020 amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. In May 2020, the Prime Minister announced the abolition of the previous peak intergovernmental body - the Council of Australian Governments (COAG), saying: “COAG is no more. It will be replaced by a completely new…
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The use of Machine Learning in Compliance

The use of Machine Learning in Compliance

AU Energy Compliance, Financial Services
The regulatory environment is evolving at a lightning pace. As a result, compliance officers must also keep up. To meet this challenge, AI applications have become more capable, particularly in regards to providing answers that are easy to interpret. As you might imagine, using an AI-powered system to process this data would be incredibly valuable for companies in a variety of fields—from financial institutions to insurance companies to tech firms. In compliance, the goal is to ensure regulatory compliance by identifying, evaluating and responding to regulatory requirements. The work can be challenging; firms and individuals often work in an environment without sufficient information to effectively meet goals and objectives. As artificial intelligence and automation become more prevalent in the world, it’s imperative that firms continue to utilize compliance know-how in…
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New Round of Enforcement Actions

New Round of Enforcement Actions

AU Energy Compliance
A fresh round of enforcement actions have been announced by the Essential Services Commission of Victoria (ESC). Energy sellers should review the announcements made by the ESC and ensure that they have adequate controls in place to avoid the same issues. Explicit Informed Consent On 26 July 2021, the ESC has announced that Simply Energy had paid penalty notices totalling $2.5 million after being issued 125 penalty notices. The penalty notices were issued to Simply Energy after two external sales agents allegedly undertook deliberate fraud to transfer 525 gas and electricity accounts at 264 properties without any contact to obtain explicit informed consent. Energy retailers are required to obtain explicit informed consent before transferring a customer. We've looked at the requirements relating to explicit informed consent in detail here and…
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AER’s Annual compliance and enforcement report 2020-21

AER’s Annual compliance and enforcement report 2020-21

Uncategorized
A report published by the AER highlights the range of enforcement activities undertaken during 2020-21 and serves as a clear warning to energy retailers of the importance of ensuring compliance with the Rules and Laws. Source: AER's Annual compliance and enforcement report 2020-21 The AER has highlighted actions relating to failures by energy retailers in areas including wrongful disconnection, failure to provide life support protections to vulnerable customers, and failure to meet timeframes for installing and repairing meters used to calculate customers’ energy bills. Highlights from the report include energy businesses paying a total of $3.8 Million in civil penalties as part of resolutions to litigation commenced by the AER and a further $960,000 being paid in infringement notices for alleged breaches of the Laws. Source: AER's Annual compliance and…
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Is Victoria really banning Embedded Networks, or just Re-naming them?

Is Victoria really banning Embedded Networks, or just Re-naming them?

Uncategorized
In a recent article, we summarised the findings of the Expert Panel in the Victorian Embedded Networks Review Draft Recommendations Report (Report). The implementation of the Panel’s recommendations would see the end of ‘embedded networks’ by 2023. However, subject to certain conditions, ‘private networks’ will remain. Below, we highlight the key components of the Report for embedded network operators in Victoria. It is clear from the Report that embedded networks will not be ‘banned’, rather they will be re-named ‘private networks’ and subject to stricter regulation. Residential vs Commercial The Panel’s recommendations would apply to residential embedded networks only. The likely reason for this is that the election promise on which this review was based, referred only to embedded networks in residential apartment buildings. In respect of commercial or industrial…
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Submission to the AER’s Network and Retail Exemption Guidelines Review

Submission to the AER’s Network and Retail Exemption Guidelines Review

AU Energy Compliance
Compliance Quater has lodged a submission with the AER addressing the questions raised by the AER but also drawing the AER's attention to a range of issues that we have identified within the guidelines. We've submitted that the AER should consider implementing a 'fast track approval' process for the approval of proposed retrofit conversions of sites where the resulting embedded network would clearly bring consumers better pricing and where the configuration of the network infrastructure facilitates consumers who wish to 'opt-out.' As energy sellers know, the regulatory framework is partly designed to set the minimum standards of conduct expected and to punish those that are non-compliant. We believe that it is time that incentives were built into the regulatory framework. Where energy sellers develop products or services that have a…
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