Protections have been increased for electricity customers experiencing financial hardship or domestic and family violence in the Northern Territory.
The NT Government passed amendments this week to the Electricity Reform Act and the Utilities Commission Act via the Electricity Legislation Amendment Bill 2023.
At the heart of the bill are the principles that electricity is an essential service and disconnection for customers facing financial hardship or domestic and family violence should be a last resort.
Utilities customers affected by domestic and family violence face unique safety challenges in their dealings with electricity retailers. For example, vulnerable customers often find it difficult to produce evidence of their circumstances, while auto-generated communications from retailers may disclose the secure location of a customer impacted by domestic and family violence.
NT Essential Services Minister Selena Uibo said the reform demonstrated the Territory Government’s commitment to keeping power prices low while transitioning to a cleaner, greener future.
“These amendments are informed and driven by the values of the Territory Labor Government, including protecting Territorians and ensuring everyone has access to reliable and affordable power, no matter what their circumstance,” she said.
“Our Government is protecting Territorians from the extreme price rises we have seen down south because we care about the cost of living.”
The bill creates an enabling framework to support the consumer protection requirements in the Electricity Retail Supply Code and provides guidance for the code’s future development.
The NT Government said the strengthened consumer protection framework would:
- Assist residential customers who are facing domestic violence
- Assist residential customers facing financial hardship to maintain access to electricity
- Ensure continuity of supply for residential customers, in the event an electricity retailer fails
- Meet the needs and circumstances of residential customers requiring life support equipment
- Ensure retail customers have access to a process for resolving complaints or disputes involving electricity entities
The legislation also gives NT WorkSafe more time to consult with stakeholders and fine-tune the regulations and policies supporting the Electricity Safety Act, intended to commence in November.