AER payment difficulty framework review

AER payment difficulty framework review

AU Energy Compliance, Compliance, Consultation
The Australian Energy Regulator (AER) is conducting a review of the consumer protections available under the National Energy Customer Framework (NECF) for those experiencing payment difficulties. On 14 May 2024, the AER released an issues paper for consultation. The review is driven by the commitment in Action 8 of the ‘Towards Energy Equity’ strategy in which the AER committed to considering whether improvements could be made to the NECF to ensure that consumers experiencing payment difficulties are identified early, engaged proactively, and provided with assistance tailored to their individual needs. Currently, the NECF offers various protections for consumers facing payment difficulties through regulatory instruments such as the National Energy Retail Law (NERL), National Energy Retail Rules (NERR), National Energy Retail Regulations, and the AER Customer Hardship Policy Guideline. These protections…
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How to Avoid Compliance Risks by Effective Communication: A Case Study

How to Avoid Compliance Risks by Effective Communication: A Case Study

Compliance, NT Energy Compliance
Compliance managers in the energy sector face many challenges in ensuring that their businesses comply with the regulatory framework. One of the most common and frustrating situations is when their advice is ignored or overridden by senior management or other stakeholders, exposing the business to potential compliance risks and penalties. In this article, we will present a hypothetical case study of a compliance manager in an energy retailer who faced this scenario and how it affected the business outcomes. We will also provide some practical recommendations for compliance managers on how to communicate effectively within the business and avoid compliance risks. The Case Study Anna is a compliance manager in a medium-sized energy retailer that operates in several states. She has been working in the energy sector for over 10…
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How to Choose a New Billing System for Energy Retailers

How to Choose a New Billing System for Energy Retailers

AU Energy Compliance, Compliance, NT Energy Compliance, NZ Energy Compliance
Billing is a vital part of the energy retail business. It involves calculating and collecting the charges for the energy services provided to the customers, as well as complying with the regulatory obligations and reporting requirements of the energy market. A good billing system can help the energy retailer to improve its operational efficiency, customer satisfaction, and competitive edge. However, many energy retailers are struggling with their existing billing systems, which may be outdated, unreliable, or inadequate for the changing needs and expectations of the market. Some of the common problems that energy retailers face with their billing systems are: Lack of flexibility and functionality. The billing system may not be able to handle the complexity and diversity of the energy products and services, such as time-of-use tariffs, demand response…
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AER hardship review concludes there is room for improvement

AER hardship review concludes there is room for improvement

AU Energy Compliance, Compliance
Introduction The Australian Energy Regulator (AER) conducted a comprehensive hardship compliance review of several energy retailers, assessing their adherence to obligations towards customers facing financial hardship under the National Energy Retail Law and the National Energy Retail Rules. AER powers The AER, under section 206 of the National Energy Retail Law, holds the authority to issue compulsory notices to energy retailers. This review was a key project under the AER's 2022-23 Compliance and Enforcement Priority. Key findings of the review Identifying hardship customers: Some retailers were found to inadequately identify customers experiencing payment difficulties, with an over-reliance on customers to self-identify. In contrast, other retailers had proactive systems to identify and support such customers effectively. Informing customers of hardship policies: There was variable compliance in informing customers about the retailer’s…
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The NT Utilities Commission releases Decision Paper on stage 2 of electricity licensing regime review

The NT Utilities Commission releases Decision Paper on stage 2 of electricity licensing regime review

Compliance, NT Energy Compliance
In 2022, the Utilities Commission of the Northern Territory (the Commission) commenced a review of the Territory’s licensing regime which aims to clarify and enhance the operation of the licensing regime.  The review is being undertaken in three separate components (stages): Stage 1: a review of the coverage, relevance and flexibility (scope and design) of the licensing regime Stage 2: a review of the consistency, efficiency and effectiveness of the form and content of licences Stage 3: a review of the efficiency and effectiveness of the Commission’s licensing and related reporting The Decision Paper released in August 2023 marked the completion of Stage 1, focusing on refining the scope and design of the regime. This Decision Paper, released in January 2024, finalises stage 2, presenting the Commission’s decisions on new…
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How to Build an Effective Energy Retailer Compliance Program

How to Build an Effective Energy Retailer Compliance Program

AU Energy Compliance, Compliance, NT Energy Compliance
It is very difficult for energy retailers who are operating independently of one another to understand what an effective compliance management program is. Typically, the only feedback that they receive is from regulators when something goes wrong i.e. when there is a breach that they are required to report on, and they subsequently go through an investigation and enforcement process. Regulators themselves do not fully understand the compliance function’s roles and responsibilities- they typically see the tail end, what goes wrong, and not the work that goes in to avoiding non-compliance. Compliance Quarter has the advantage of having worked with a number of energy retailers and as a result is in a unique position in being able to explain what an effective compliance program looks like. So, what are some…
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The Shifting Sands of Compliance: Top 5 Risks Australian Businesses Must Navigate in 2024

The Shifting Sands of Compliance: Top 5 Risks Australian Businesses Must Navigate in 2024

AU Energy Compliance, Compliance
The compliance landscape in Australia is anything but static. Like quicksand, regulations, expectations, and business practices evolve rapidly, making it essential for businesses to remain vigilant if they want to avoid sinking into costly fines, reputational damage, or worse. While the specific challenges will vary by industry, here's a breakdown of the top 5 areas where compliance risks lurk in 2024, ready to trip up those who aren't prepared: 1. Cybersecurity: The Never-Ending Battle Cybersecurity threats aren't just a nuisance; they're a real and growing danger facing every business that stores even a shred of customer or company data. The high-profile breaches of Optus (https://www.optus.com.au/about/media-centre/media-releases/2022/09/optus-notifies-customers-of-cyberattack) and Medibank in 2022 served as stark reminders of the severe consequences of this evolving threat. In 2024, the pressure to tighten data security and…
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Understanding Power Purchase Agreements in Western Australia: Exemptions, Conditions, and Obligations

Understanding Power Purchase Agreements in Western Australia: Exemptions, Conditions, and Obligations

Compliance, WA Energy Compliance
Introduction Solar Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs) have become increasingly popular in Western Australia (WA) as a means of accessing solar power. These agreements involve a supplier installing and maintaining a solar power system at a customer's premises at no up-front cost to the customer. In exchange, the customer agrees to purchase the energy generated by the system from the supplier over an agreed period at an agreed rate. The unique nature of these agreements, however, calls for a distinct regulatory framework. This article delves into the specifics of PPAs in WA, focusing on the available retail licence exemptions, the conditions tied to these exemptions, and the obligations for reporting and disclosure. Retail Licence Exemptions for Solar PPAs In August 2016, the Minister for Energy approved a licence exemption framework for…
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Membership of Ombudsman Scheme: A Mandatory Requirement for Exempt Operators

Membership of Ombudsman Scheme: A Mandatory Requirement for Exempt Operators

Compliance, Embedded Networks
The Australian Energy Regulator (AER) mandates that all exempt operators must be members of an energy ombudsman scheme for each jurisdiction where they sell energy to exempt customers. This requirement is not just a mere formality—it is a significant component of safeguarding customer rights and ensuring a fair and equitable energy market. What are Exempt Operators? Before diving into the significance of the ombudsman scheme, it's important to understand who exempt operators are. In the energy sector, exempt operators are entities that sell energy to a specific site or to customers with whom they already have a relationship. They are covered under what is called a 'retail exemption'. These exemptions apply to a range of energy selling activities, often seen in scenarios such as landlords recovering energy costs from their…
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Proposed reforms to address unfair trading practices in Australia

Proposed reforms to address unfair trading practices in Australia

AU Energy Compliance, Compliance, NT Energy Compliance
The Australian Government is consulting on options to strengthen protections for consumers and small businesses against unfair trading practices. Unfair trading practices refer to certain commercial practices that cause harm but are not prohibited by existing laws. The consultation paper released by Treasury in August 2023 explores options to amend the Australian Consumer Law (ACL) to introduce new protections from unfair trading practices. What is proposed? The options discussed in the consultation paper include: Retaining the status quo – no change to existing laws. The ACL would continue to protect against misleading or deceptive conduct, unconscionable conduct and unfair contract terms but would not specifically target unfair trading practices. Amending the statutory unconscionable conduct provision to expand its scope. This could involve expanding the list of factors courts must consider…
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