On 7 May 2021 the Australian Energy Regulator (AER) released the results of the latest compliance audit under the National Energy Retail Law. AGL Energy Ltd carried out an audit to assess compliance with its hardship, payment plan and disconnection obligations for the period 1 January 2020 to 30 April 2020. With the exception of one instance of non- compliance, the audit found that AGL complied in all material respects with its hardship, payment plans, and disconnection obligations. AGL rectified the issue giving rise to the partial compliance by updating its retail systems.
Part Two of the National Energy Retail Law and Parts Three and Six of the National Energy Retail Rules set out obligations that retailers have in relation to payment plans, hardship policies, debt recovery, and disconnections. These obligations include that retailers maintain and implement hardship policies pursuant to s 43 of the National Energy Retail Law whose purpose is to identify residential customers experiencing payment difficulties due to hardship and to assist those customers to better manage their energy bills on an ongoing basis.
The minimum requirements for a customer hardship policy are set out in s 44 and the guideline published by the AER. Pursuant to s 48, market retail contract terms and conditions have no effect to the extent that they are inconsistent with the application of the retailer’s customer hardship policy. A hardship customer is a residential customer of a retailer who is identified as a customer experiencing financial payment difficulties due to hardship in accordance with the retailer’s customer hardship policy.
The regulatory obligations that apply to energy retailers in relation to customer hardship, payment plans, and disconnection are complex and comprehensive. AGL has done well to achieve such a good result in this recent audit.
Compliance Quarter is working on a series of tools to empower retailers conducting internal compliance assessment reviews. Our tool sets out a series of questions that can be answered by internal operations and compliance staff and, once those questions are answered, produces a comprehensive assessment report that can be used to improve existing controls so as to reduce the likelihood of noncompliance.
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