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Helping vulnerable customers get a fair deal on their power bills

15 November 2018

The Australian Energy Market Commission (AEMC) has made a final rule determination that will assist vulnerable customers to better understand their rights and get the help they need to pay their power bills.

In consultation with the Commonwealth Government, the Australian Energy Regulator (AER) requested the new rule after identifying that the implementation of energy retailers' hardship policies was inconsistent and many policies did not provide customers with clear information about the assistance they can expect if experiencing hardship.

The final determination will require the AER to develop binding hardship guidelines that include standardised statements retailers must include in their hardship policies.

The standardised statements will ensure retailers use consistent and clear language about the assistance they provide, helping consumers understand what assistance they are entitled to.

Retailers will also be required to detail the action they will take to identify customers who are experiencing financial hardship and how they will assist those customers to manage their energy bills on an ongoing basis.

The AEMC, along with the AER, is also recommending the introduction of new civil penalties, such as fines, for retailers that fail to comply with these new obligations.

The rule will require retailers to have new hardship policies approved and implemented by no later than 1 October 2019. The AER has commenced consultation on the approach to standardised statements.

The Morrison Government is focused on delivering lower power prices for Australian families, and this new rule complements actions already taken as part of its commitment, including:

  • a rule change requiring energy retailers to notify their customers when their discounts are about to finish or change;
  • a rule change banning retailers from offering confusing discounts, providing consumers with confidence that the prices in discounted offers have not been artificially inflated to make the offer seem more attractive; and,
  • a rule change to require retailers to accept self-reads instead of estimated reads, to reduce the risk of bill shock.