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.
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.
During the year, the AER obtained two new court enforceable undertakings with the completion of five compliance audits and a number of voluntary commitment from energy businesses to improve their compliance practices.
As we have noted in earlier posts, the AER has a range of new enforcement powers and so we can expect the size of penalties to increase this financial year. The AER notes
“In the most serious cases, the AER will be able to seek penalties of up to $10 million (or potentially more for large companies) for alleged breaches of the energy laws. We expect the new penalties to provide a greater incentive for businesses to comply with laws designed to protect Australian electricity and gas consumers.”
The AER takes a risk based approach in conducting enforcement activities and can be expected to focus on those areas highlighted in our post in enforcement priorities for 2021-2022.