By Anne Wardell, Compliance Quarter.
On 6 November 2017 the Australian Energy Regulator (AER) released a revised Draft Retail Exempt Selling Guideline version 5 (Draft Guideline).
The proposed changes to the Guideline are to:
- improve dispute resolution options for residential exempt customers by requiring exempt sellers with residential customers to be members of, or subject to, a relevant energy ombudsman scheme where they can be accommodated by the scheme,
- place a clear obligation on exempt sellers to have complaints and dispute handling procedures, and
- align a number of customer protections within the Guideline with the National Energy Retail Law.
The AER has invited submissions to be lodged by 19 December 2017. There is also a stakeholder forum due to be held on 14 December 2017. To attend the forum you need to email AERExemptions@aer.gov.au with details of your organisation, name and people attending. It will take place at the AER offices in Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide, Brisbane, Canberra, Hobart and Townsville.
The Notice of Draft Instrument sets out details of the context in which the draft Guideline has been prepared, the issues involved, and the effects of the proposed changes.
At page 5 of the Notice the AER provides a useful summary of the proposed changes:
‘We propose a number of important Guideline amendments to facilitate access to energy ombudsman schemes for residential customers of exempt sellers in all jurisdictions and provide clear exempt seller obligations regarding complaints and disputes handling processes. We explain the proposed changes and their rationale in section 3.
Other amendments we propose will clarify aspects of the Guideline and conditions and better align key customer protections with those that apply to customers of authorised retailers, for example, those relating to:
- obligation to supply
- reconnection or re-energisation
- payment plans
- planned and unplanned outages’.
The amendments proposed are:
‘We propose amending the Guideline to give effect to two key changes to improve exempt customers’ dispute resolution options. These are to:
(i) require exempt sellers that sell energy to residential customers to be members of, or subject to, the relevant energy ombudsman scheme/s where they are able to be accommodated by the relevant ombudsman scheme, and
(ii) explicitly place obligations on exempt sellers to have in place appropriate complaints and dispute handing processes’ (see Section 3 at p 7).
This follows the consultation conducted In June and July 2017 in relation to their Issues Paper: Access to dispute resolution services for exempt customers. A number of submissions were lodged including from the major energy retailers, Caravan Parks Association of Queensland, Caravan and Camping Industry Association NSW, Manufactured Housing Industry Association of NSW, the state Ombudsman schemes, Tenants Union NSW, Shopping Centre Council and PIAC. All of the submissions are available at Access to dispute resolution services for exempt customers – June 2017.
Further information and copies of the Draft Retail Exempt Selling Guideline and the Notice of Draft Instrument are available on the AER website at Draft Retail Exempt Selling Guideline – November 2017.