Articles

Simply Energy pays penalty for alleged wrongful disconnection

Simply Energy pays penalty for alleged wrongful disconnection

AU Energy Compliance
On 13 August 2021, the Essential Services Commission (Victoria) served a penalty notice on IPower 2 Pty Limited and IPower Pty Limited (trading as Simply Energy). The Penalty notice can be viewed here. Most energy providers are aware of the processes they must undertake before disconnecting a customer's energy supply. The Penalty Notice in this case cites a wrongful disconnection contravention within the meaning of s 54E of the Act: S54E (definitions) wrongful disconnection contraventionmeans a contravention referred to in section 54H(1)(c); Section 54E cites 54H(1)(c) identifies “conduct that requires compliance with the Energy Retail Code”. The Energy Retail Code itself at clause 118 states: Request for de-energisationIf a customer requests the retailer to arrange for de-energisation of the customer’s premises, the retailer must use its best endeavours to arrange for: de-energisation…
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Getting Serious: The Peak Demand Reduction Scheme

Getting Serious: The Peak Demand Reduction Scheme

AU Energy Compliance
The New South Wales Energy Savings Scheme (ESS) was established in 2009 under the Electricity Supply Act 1995. One of the primary purposes of the ESS is to provide incentives to install, improve or replace energy savings equipment and appliances in NSW households and businesses. The financial incentives under the scheme have been in the form of Energy Saving Certificates (ESCs), which are tradeable. When households and businesses fund energy-saving activities, they create ESCs which can be transferred to Accredited Certificate Providers (ACPs) in return for a discount on the costs of the energy saving activity. The ESCs are calculated on the basis of the megawatt hours saved by the activity. Many of us know some of the programs that have been rolled out such as light bulb replacement and…
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Alinta Energy improves systems and waives more than $1 million in customer debt following an AER investigation.

Alinta Energy improves systems and waives more than $1 million in customer debt following an AER investigation.

AU Energy Compliance
On 8 October 2021, the Australian Energy Regulator (AER) announced that, in response to an investigation, Alinta Energy have substantially improved its systems and was waiving more than $1 million in energy debt owed by more than 400 of its customers.  The outcome arose as a result of an investigation carried out by the AER into alleged non-compliance with Alinta Energy’s obligations with respect to vulnerable customers and its hardship program. The AER was concerned that during the period September 2019 to March 2020, Alinta Energy may have required vulnerable customers to make upfront payments or to seek financial counselling in circumstances where it should have offered those customer’s access to payment plans or assistance under Alinta’s hardship program.  Furthermore, the AER alleged that in some cases Alinta Energy had wrongfully…
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An Alternative to Compliance by Coercion

An Alternative to Compliance by Coercion

AU Energy Compliance, Financial Services
Traditional mechanisms used by both government and private enterprises seeking to increase compliance focus on penalties as disincentives. Penalties take a variety of forms, including fines, loss of licence, and enforceable undertakings. In this post, we examine an alternative- focused on behavioural psychology and ‘nudge theory.’ Penalties as a compliance tool The belief that greater penalties will result in greater compliance assumes that regulated entities operate under a decision-making model which perfectly takes into account both the costs and benefits of each decision made and that resources required to ensure compliance are not limited.  Neither assumption is safe. The public’s responses to COVID-19 public health measures provide a perfect case study for the need for more sophisticated responses to encourage compliance. With fines in NSW increasing, have we seen greater…
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AER Life Support Registration Guide – A Good Reminder

AER Life Support Registration Guide – A Good Reminder

AU Energy Compliance
On 1 August 2021, the new obligations regarding life support came into effect. These obligations were made pursuant to a rule change published by the AEMC in February 2021. The aim of the new rules is to clarify the responsibilities between retailers and distributors to ensure the accuracy of life support registers. The AER has now published an 11 page guide (the Guide), which although has no legal force, provides information on the following areas: the customer registration process;the deregistration of life support customers;the obligation to share information; andthe obligation to keep and maintain a register and record of life support requirements. Registration Process The Guide provides a breakdown of the life support registration process which is split into: (i) customer notification, (ii) medical confirmation, (iii) deregistration, (iv) information sharing…
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ESC Review of the Payment Difficulty Framework

ESC Review of the Payment Difficulty Framework

AU Energy Compliance
In January 2019, the payment difficulty framework commenced in Victoria to ensure that disconnection for non-payment is a last resort and that vulnerable customers are supported to pay for their energy usage. After two years of operation, the payment difficulty framework remains the most stringent customer protection framework in the country and has been considered a success by the Essential Services Commission (ESC). Now the ESC has commenced a review to evaluate and assess the operation of the framework in meeting its objective. The ESC does not intend for the review to result in significant reforms to code obligations or to revisit the underlying rationale of the framework. Rather, the ESC seeks to provide more actionable guidance on the framework. The aim of the review is to: Identify issues with…
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Opportunity to shape energy bills of the future

Opportunity to shape energy bills of the future

AU Energy Compliance
On 2 September 2021, the AER made a call for submissions on issues that will inform the AER Bill Contents and Billing Requirements Guideline (Guideline). Submissions are due by Wednesday, 22 September 2021. The purpose of the Guideline is to provide retailers with guidance on preparing and issuing bills to make it easier for residential and small customers to understand billing information. The new Guideline will be published by 1 April 2022, and compliance will be mandatory for all retailers. Changes resulting from Guideline will appear on consumer bills from August 2022. The Guideline development process has been informed by industry research. The AER, in collaboration with the Behavioural Economics Team of the Australian Government (BETA) has released new consumer insights and research about consumer billing comprehension, preferences and behaviours.…
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An Embedded Network (Guideline) Refresher

An Embedded Network (Guideline) Refresher

AU Energy Compliance
If you own, operate or control a private embedded network, you will need to ensure that you hold the exemptions you require. In all of the Eastern States of Australia, this will mean that you will need a network exemption issued pursuant to the AER's Electricity NSP Registration Exemption Guideline (Network Exemption Guideline). In this post, we answer some of the most common questions when it comes to embedded networks that are regulated by the Network Exemption Guideline. When is a Network Exemption Required? Anyone who owns, controls or operates an embedded network will require registration or an exemption. As the AER notes, even the simple act of allowing a cleaning contract to plug in a vacuum in your office may be considered to be providing a distribution service under…
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Automated compliance under the microscope? AER initiates proceedings against Origin in the Federal Court.

Automated compliance under the microscope? AER initiates proceedings against Origin in the Federal Court.

AU Energy Compliance
This week the AER announced that it had initiated proceedings in the Federal Court of Australia. The AER alleges systemic failures in the automated processes that Origin is using concerning customers experiencing hardship and payment difficulties, in breach of the National Energy Retail Law and Rules. The AER state that Origin has implemented systems that result in Origin making unilateral changes to customers’ payment plans, failing to consider customers’ capacity to pay when establishing or changing payment plans, and cancelling payment plans in breach of Origin’s own hardship policies. Compliance is a heavy burden for those operating in the energy sector. Combined with hardship resulting from COVID and a motivated regulator with a range of new enforcement powers, we are destined to see more and more showdowns of this nature. Lessons…
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Minutes of Energy Ministers’ Meetings could become publicly available following a recent decision on the status of National Cabinet

Minutes of Energy Ministers’ Meetings could become publicly available following a recent decision on the status of National Cabinet

AU Energy Compliance
A recent decision of the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT) will be welcomed by those in the energy industry seeking clarity on the nation’s changeable climate change and energy policy. The decision of Patrick and Secretary, Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet (Freedom of Information) [2021] AATA 271 (Patrick Decision) upheld a claim by Senator Rex Patrick to access certain National Cabinet documents under Freedom of Information (FOI) legislation. What is National Cabinet? The Prime Minister, along with the other State and Territory Ministers, established the National Cabinet on 13 March 2020 amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. In May 2020, the Prime Minister announced the abolition of the previous peak intergovernmental body - the Council of Australian Governments (COAG), saying: “COAG is no more. It will be replaced by a completely new…
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