New consumer protection obligations and tougher penalties will apply to energy companies under Victoria’s energy laws, from today.
The Andrews Labor Government has strengthened energy sector consumer protections and the enforcement powers of the Essential Services Commission – the regulator – through the Energy Legislation Amendment (Consumer Protection) Act 2015.
These new consumer protections and enforcement powers include:
- doubling the payment that energy retailers must make to wrongfully disconnected customers, to $500 a day for each day that the customer’s supply is cut off
- a new $5,000 penalty that may be applied to energy retailers who make wrongful disconnections
- a $20,000 penalty for breaches of regulatory obligations
- an increased penalty of up to $100,000 for non-compliance with a civil penalty notice
- a ban on ‘exit’ or ‘early termination’ fees on retail energy contracts (excluding genuine fixed-term, fixed-price contracts) to enable customers to more readily change energy retailers; and
- on a specified date or in a specified period, energy retailers must publish standing offer prices
The Essential Services Commission will also be required to report publicly on the performance of each energy retailer, and on the compliance and enforcement action that it takes.
While many energy companies act responsibly towards their customers, the Energy and Water Ombudsman Victoria received 34,524 electricity and 13,066 gas complaints and/or enquiries in 2015. The increased range of enforcement powers will provide greater incentives for companies to deliver on their consumer protection obligations. These powers also mean that the Essential Services Commission is able to better protect consumers.
The new protections will deliver greater transparency and enable consumers to make more informed choices in the market, while also providing customers with greater confidence when dealing with energy companies.
Quotes attributable to Minister for Energy and Resources Lily D’Ambrosio
“Energy is an essential service for all Victorians. These strengthened consumer protection measures ensure the energy market continues to deliver positive outcomes for customers.”
“We’re putting the interests of Victorians at the front and centre of our energy retail policy.”
“The Government is delivering on its promise to protect the interests of energy consumers, to deliver greater transparency in the market to enable customers to make informed choices and to relieve energy cost pressures.”
Reviewed 19 August 2020