Strengthening protections for customers requiring life support equipment

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life support Photo by Jair Lázaro on Unsplash

By Anne Wardell, Compliance Quarter. 

The Australian Energy Market Commission (AEMC) has today released its final rule in relation to the rights which must be provided to life support customers by energy retailers and distributors. The final rule will become effective from 1 February 2019, however, from 1 February 2018 transitional arrangements will apply.

The transitional arrangements are:

  • provide the protections in the current life support rules during the transition period (i.e. 1 February 2018 to 1 February 2019) to all existing customers who are registered as having life support equipment, whether they have provided medical confirmation or not; and
  • provide the protections in the current life support rules during the transition period to all new customers who advise a retailer or distributor they require life support equipment, whether they provide medical confirmation or not.

The AEMC has advised that:

‘The final rule will provide better protection for life support customers, allocate responsibilities clearly and appropriately between retailers and distributors, and improve the accuracy of life support registers’[1].

The new rule sets out minimum legal requirements which must be met by retailers and distributors. It also amends the current life support provisions:

‘so that customers will be entitled to life support protections from the time they first inform either their retailer or distributor that they need life support equipment. It establishes minimum requirements for retailers and distributors to register and deregister customers for life support protections. It also clarifies the role of retailers and distributors with regards to the registration, medical confirmation, and deregistration processes’[2].

The main features of the final rule are:

  • enable a customer to receive the protections of the life support rules from the time they inform their retailer or distributor 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 a customer’s eligibility to be on the life support register — follow a prescribed process if the registration process owner chooses to remove a customer from the register where medical confirmation is not provided;
  • enable either the retailer or the distributor to deregister the premises if the customer informs them that life support equipment is no longer required; and
  • enable the non-registration process owner (either the retailer or the distributor) to deregister the premises once the registration process owner has deregistered the premises in the event where medical confirmation is not provided[3].

The new rule also contains amendments to the model terms and conditions for standard retail contracts and deemed standard connection contracts. Retailers will be required to update their standard terms once the rule becomes effective.

Further information, including copies of the Final Determination and Final Rule are available on the AEMC website.

[1] AEMC Information sheet.

[2] Summary of AEMC Final Rule Determination National Energy Retail Amendment (Strengthening protections for customers requiring life support equipment) Rule 2017

[3] Ibid.

For anyone that would like to discuss this in more detail, please feel free to contact our regulatory specialists here.

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