On 1 June 2022, the Federal Court ordered EnergyAustralia to pay a pecuniary penalty of $12m. They were also ordered to pay $300,000 towards the AER’s legal costs. The penalty is the largest ever imposed under Australia’s National Energy Retail Law.
The Federal Court found a total of 14,637 breaches. The breaches were comprised of failing to:
- register customers that required life support equipment when advised by the customer or notified by the distributor;
- notify the distributor when advised first by the customer;
- provide the required information to life support customers within the specified timeframes; and
- establish policies, systems and procedures for registering and de-registering a premises requiring life support equipment.
EnergyAustralia admitted to not registering more than 4,000 customers who were using life support equipment between 2018 and 2020. It also failed to notify energy distributors of a similar number of customers, as well as failing to register more than 6,000 emergency phone numbers with distributors.
AER Chairwoman Clare Savage said:
The fine was a message to electricity retailers and distributors about the seriousness of having the right systems and processes in place to comply with their legal obligations and protect consumers who rely on life-support equipment.
EnergyAustralia’s actions threatened the lives of thousands of consumers in vulnerable circumstances.
The $12 million penalty imposed by the court sends a strong message to all retailers and distributors that they must comply with their life support responsibilities under the law.
Life support obligations are critical to ensure that customers receive important protections under the law, including protections relating to continuity of energy supply and sufficient notice of any planned interruptions.
The size of the penalty imposed on EnergyAustralia serves as a timely reminder for retailers that the regulations relating to life support customers are literally a matter of life and death. Retailers should ensure that their internal policies and procedures in relation to all aspects of regulatory (compliance) requirements are fit for purpose.