The Australian Energy Regulator (AER) is introducing temporary additional protections for households and small businesses located in selected areas in NSW and SA – for those impacted by recent COVID-19 lockdowns.
NSW areas applicable are Orange City Council, Blayney Shire Council and Cabonne Shire Council, whilst all areas affected by the SA government’s stay-at-home orders are applicable.
The AER recently developed a standby Statement of Expectations for energy retailers in the event jurisdictions are subject to extended stay-at-home orders.
The Statement of Expectations is applied at the AER’s discretion to National Energy Customer Framework (NECF) jurisdictions – the Australian Capital Territory, New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia or Tasmania.
The standby Statement of Expectations instructs retailers to:
- Offer all residential and small business consumers who indicate they may be in financial stress a payment plan or hardship arrangement
- Not disconnect any residential or small business consumers who may be in financial stress (including residential and small business consumers in an embedded network) without their agreement
- Defer referrals of residential and small business consumers to debt collection agencies for recovery actions or credit default listing
The standby statement principles will provide additional protections for residential and small business customers in these local government areas until two weeks after the stay-at-home order ends.
The AER is ready to respond by providing the additional protections in other areas that may be impacted by the evolving health events and further stay-at-home orders.
Victorian energy consumers come under the separate protections of the Essential Services Commission, while Western Australia and the Northern Territory have their own separate retail energy market regulation.
The AER continues to monitor the rapidly changing situation across all National Energy Customer Framework (NECF) jurisdictions.
NSW areas have been applicable from 21 July 2021 and SA areas from 20 July 2021.