AER’s 2021 to 2022 Compliance and Enforcement Priorities: Consumer Protection

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#NECF, #Retailers, #ExemptOperators

On 23 June 2021, the Australian Energy Regulator (AER) released five compliance and enforcement priorities for 2021 to 2022 with a major focus on protecting energy consumers.

The AER Chair, Clare Savage, said that the AER will be monitoring retailers to ensure that they identify residential customers in financial difficulty and offer appropriate payment plans to those consumers who need assistance as one of the five key priorities. Commenting further, Clare Savage noted, “Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic the AER has monitored consumer debt levels as well as the number of consumers that are in retailer hardship policies or have payment plans. It is concerning to see that while debt levels have increased, the number of consumers with payment plans or existing retailer hardship programs has not.”

The AER’s key compliance and enforcement priorities for 2021 to 2022 are:

1. Ensuring retailers are effectively identifying residential consumers in financial difficulty and offering payment plans that have regard to the customer’s capacity to pay;

2. Ensuring embedded network operator’s compliance with exemption conditions, including consumer access to ombudsman schemes;

3. Focusing on registered generators’ compliance with the AEMO dispatching strategies and their ability to comply with their latest offers at all times;

4. Ensuring service providers meet information disclosure obligations and National Gas rule obligations; and

5. Ensuring timely and accurate gas auction reporting by registered participants.

It’s interesting to note that there is within this set of priorities, a focus on embedded networks and in particular on ensuring compliance with exemption conditions. Exempt operators should give the review their existing practices and procedures to ensure that they are complying with the exemption conditions that apply to their activities.

As reported previously, the AER has new extensive compliance and enforcement powers including the ability to penalise non-compliant entities with maximum penalties for certain provisions now the greater of $10 million, three times the benefit obtained from the breach, or 10% of annual turnover.
Read more here.

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