The AEMC today released a consultation paper on a rule change request from the Australian Energy Regulator (AER) which aims to strengthen protections for vulnerable customers who are having difficulty paying their energy bills.

The request is an outcome of the AER’s 2017 Hardship Review which found deficiencies in how retailers implement their hardship policies. These policies are designed to help vulnerable customers pay off their debt and avoid having their electricity and gas disconnected.

The review found that many policies may not sufficiently align with the minimum requirements of retailers’ hardship obligations under the National Electricity Retail Rules. Also, many customers are not receiving adequate guidance from their retailer about their rights and entitlements.

The proposed rule change would enable the AER to develop new Customer Hardship Policy Guidelines, enforceable by civil penalties. The guidelines would set out how the minimum requirements should be applied, and make it easier for the AER to monitor and enforce retailer compliance with hardship obligations.

Stakeholders are invited to make submissions on the consultation paper by 28 June 2018.

This proposed rule change is part of a package of initiatives from ministers following the Australian Government’s round table discussions with energy retailers last year. For more information on the AEMC’s retail work program to help deliver more affordable energy for consumers see our consumer protection action plan.

See also AER news release

Media: Prudence Anderson, Communication Director, 0404 821 935 or (02) 8296 7817