AER has just released a new Life Support Registration Guide (the Guide) ahead of the commencement of the new Life Support National Energy Retail Rules (NERR) on the 1 February 2019. This update summaries the new registration guide and what retailers need to do to comply with it.
By Dr Drew Donnelly, Compliance Quarter.
1.The New Life Support Rules
The new rules:
- provide customers with life support protections from the time they inform their retailer or distributor that they rely on life support equipment until they are deregistered;
- require the registration process owner (the retailer or distributor contacted by the customer) to:
* notify customers of their rights and obligations under the life support rules;
* follow a prescribed process for obtaining medical confirmation of customer eligibility to be on the life support register;
* follow a prescribed process for the removal of a customer from the register where medical confirmation is not provided;
* establish a clear process to enable either the retailer or distributor to deregister the premises if the customer advises that life support equipment is no longer required.
- The Guide
The Guide sets out the different steps that retailers and distributors must take at each stage of the process in accordance with the new rules, including the customer notification process, medical confirmation, de-registration and information sharing and record-keeping requirements. It also sets out the AER’s approach to compliance and enforcement with respect to the new life support rules. This includes that:
- with the commencement of the new rules on 1 February 2019, businesses must have policies, systems and procedures in place for registering and deregistering premises requiring life support equipment. This includes maintaining accurate and up to date registers and ensuring deregistrations are carried out in accordance with the NERR;
- a failure to meet life support obligations is a civil penalty provision under the NERR which means court-ordered penalties of up to $100 000 for a corporation and up to $20 000 for individuals per contravention. The AER also has the power to issue infringement notices;
- the self-reporting compliance framework requires retailers and distributors to report possible breaches of the Retail Law and Retail Rules. The life support obligations are classified as immediate and must be reported within two business days of the business identifying them, given the potential for serious customer harm.
- What about Embedded Networks?
Authorised Retailers who supply to customers in embedded networks will be subject to the new life support rules just like any other authorised retailer. The new rules do not apply to embedded network operators operating solely under network and/or retail exemption
The life support obligations for exemption holders are provided in the AER Electricity NSP Registration Exemption Guideline (Network Guideline) and the AER Retail Exempt Selling Guideline (Exempt Selling Guideline), respectively. These include requirements not to disconnect customers who rely on life support equipment (without making alternative arrangements for the customers safety) and the requirement to ensure that parent and child connection point retailers are informed of customers with life support needs.
- Ensure that internal processes are updated as recommended in the Registration Guide to manage registration processes;
- Conduct a compliance risk assessment with respect to the new rules and submit to the organisations Board for consideration.
Read the Guide at https://www.aer.gov.au/system/files/1482_AER_Life%20Support%20Guide_FA_WEB%20%28002%29.pdf.