In this article, we examine ACCC compliance and enforcement priorities for 2018, including energy and the consumer data right.

ACCC compliance and enforcement priorities

By Anne Wardell, Compliance Quarter. 

Mr Rod Sims, Chairman of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has launched the ACCC’s Compliance and Enforcement Policy for 2018. One of the key areas of focus in 2018 will be energy and its affordability. Also relevant in 2018 will be the introduction of the Consumer Data Right.

In his speech to the Committee for Economic Development of Australia (CEDA) on 20 February 2018, Mr Sims said:

As I have repeatedly said, Australia faces an energy affordability crisis. This has upended one of Australia’s core sources of competitive advantages and caused significant consumer harm. The ACCC’s retail electricity pricing inquiry report and the ACCC’s wholesale gas inquiry have given us, and the wider community, a far stronger understanding of the issues and pressures around rising energy prices.
Armed with the clear findings on the causes of the problem, the ACCC will now focus on making recommendations that will improve electricity affordability across the National Electricity Market and provide recommendations for reform in our final report at the end of June 2018.’

Mr Sims indicated that the Retail Electricity Pricing Inquiry and the Gas Inquiry will focus on affordability.

ACCC compliance and enforcement priorities 2018

The ACCC released the Retail Electricity Pricing Inquiry: Preliminary Report on 22 September 2017. The final report is due to be released in June 2018.

Two interim reports have been released by the ACCC in relation to the Gas Inquiry. On 25 September 2017, the ACCC released its first interim report of its inquiry into gas supply arrangements in Australia. The report focuses on likely supply and demand conditions in the east coast gas market for 2018. On 13 December 2017, the ACCC released its second interim report as part of its inquiry into Australia’s wholesale gas supply arrangements. The report focuses on the operation of the East Coast Gas Market, where there are continuing immediate and longer-term concerns.

Apart from these Inquiries, Mr Sims also referred to the Review into Open Banking in Australia – Final Report and its application of a consumer data right to the banking industry. The Chairman was of the view that ‘ this review sets the blueprint for other sectors, and the government has announced that the Consumer Data Right (CDR) will apply initially in the banking, telecommunications and energy sectors’. Both the ACCC and the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (OAIC) will be tasked with regulating compliance with the right.

The CDR Fact Sheet sets out the following information for the energy sector:

What are the next steps for the energy sector?

A data right currently exists in the energy sector, allowing customers to direct that a data recipient can obtain their electricity consumption data. However, concerns have been raised regarding its effectiveness due to the absence of detailed rules relating to data provision, data transfer and customer consent.
As such, the Treasury is currently working with the Department of Energy and Environment to develop a model for implementation of the CDR in the energy sector.’

Given that the Australian Energy Regulator is reviewing the regulatory framework for Embedded Networks in 2018, it would seem that 2018 will be a busy year for those of us who work in energy and compliance. As ever, should you need support or wish to talk through the ACCC compliance and enforcement priorities or any of our articles and analysis, please get in touch with the team here.

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