26 September 2023

Commission aims power at electricity suppliers

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The Independent Competition and Regulatory Commission (ICRC) has found that the number of planned interruptions into electricity supplies in Canberra last year was 1,263, an increase of 170 since 2019-20.

Releasing its Utility Licence Annual Report (ULAR) and National Energy Retail Law (NERL) Retailer Compliance Report 2020-21, the ICRC said the number of unplanned sustained interruptions to electricity supply was down to 26 in 2020-21, a drop of 11 since the previous year.

The Commission said it measured the performance of utility providers by the reliability of services, the number of customer complaints, compliance with consumer protections, and whether each utility had met its licence and reporting obligations.

“We are also reporting (for the first time) on National Energy Retail Law (NERL) retailers’ compliance with the new Consumer Protection Code that came into effect from 1 July 2020,” the ICRC said.

“The Consumer Protection Code sets out guaranteed service levels (GSLs) for the licenced utilities and energy retailers,” it said.

“In the Code, we introduced a requirement for the utilities to pay rebates automatically to affected customers when they have not met the GSLs.”

The ICRC said that previously, customers had to know they were entitled to a rebate and apply to the utility.

The Commission said the Code also introduced a new requirement for NERL retailers to make automatic rebate payments when they had not met the GSLs.

“Automatic payment of rebates has led to a significant increase in rebates paid to consumers, from a total of $1,200 paid in 2019-20 to a total of $147,030 that will be paid for the 2020-21 reporting year,” it said.

“These rebates are recognition that customers have received poorer services than they should expect.”

The ICRC said that following the payment of rebates to 210 ineligible customers (totalling $30,230), Icon Water had paused its remaining rebate payments.

“Icon Water estimates that 273 customers still require rebates totalling $30,660 to be paid out,” it said.

“Icon Water reports it will finalise all rebate payments owing for the 2020-21 reporting year by end of June 2022.”

The Commission said NERL retailers had had an obligation to pay rebates for the first time in 2020-21, and only the two largest NERL retailers had not met the relevant GSLs.

It said both retailers reported that in each instance when they did not meet a GSL, they paid the relevant rebate to the customer.

The ICRC’s 43-page Report can be accessed at this PS News link.

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