Major retailer pays penalties for unlawful disconnections

A major energy retailer has been forced to pay $80,000 in penalties by the AER after it allegedly unlawfully disconnect 54 premises. 

Origin Energy was required to provide the AER with a court enforceable undertaking, outlining steps it will take to prevent further wrongful disconnections, including a systems and processes audit.

AER Chair, Paula Conboy, said that the AER’s investigation found systemic issues with Origin’s management of customer disconnections. Origin did not have adequate processes in place to satisfy the disconnection obligations in the National Energy Retail Rules.

The affected customers had contacted Origin to resolve their outstanding issues only to be unexpectedly disconnected.

“Disconnecting a premises is one of the most disruptive steps an energy retailer can take. The impact of an unexpected disconnection on the customer is significant and retailers must ensure supply is only interrupted when allowed under the Retail Rules.

“Energy is an essential service and it is crucial that customers can trust their energy provider to do the right thing.

“We expect energy companies to follow the energy laws, particularly in relation to consumer protection, and we will take enforcement action where we identify serious compliance issues,” Ms Conboy said.

The enforceable undertaking includes a commitment to engage an independent auditor, approved by the AER, to audit Origin’s training and processes.

Origin has acknowledged in the undertaking that it wrongfully disconnected the customers.

Ms Conboy said the AER would take a dim view of continued wrongful disconnections by Origin, and sounded a warning to other retailers to take heed.

“Customers must only be disconnected as a last resort. Our investigation found that Origin repeatedly failed to ensure a disconnection order was cancelled when it should have been.”

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