This report, CUAC Regulatory Review, critically examines the Victorian energy consumer protection framework contained in legislative and regulatory instruments.
The key findings and recommendations of CUAC’s report provide a timely evidentiary review of ￼the subtle losses already experienced by Victorian consumers and anticipates the loss of further consumer protections.
This review has been conducted through the lens of new technologies, the evolving energy market and the new Harmonised Energy Retail Code. High disconnection rates, wrongful disconnections, a growing number of Victorian consumers experiencing hardship and household financial difficulties are increasingly the norm in the Victorian community. The Essential Services Commission of Victoria’s Inquiry into the Financial Hardship Arrangements of Energy Retailers is a welcomed paper paying special attention to the consumer protections relating to energy bill payment difficulties, hardship, and disconnection. CUAC’s report identifies significant gaps in the current consumer protection framework experienced by Victorians. Key findings and recommendations from the Analysis of Key Consumer Protections section of the report are discussed below.
For CUAC, it is important to review the regulatory framework to determine if it is able to effectively address and respond to current and ongoing changes in the energy market. This is to ensure sound consumer protections. CUAC’s review questions whether the National Energy Customer Framework and the new Harmonised Energy Retail Code are able to effectively respond to the substantial and complex changes that have occurred in the energy market, whilst maintaining a level of consumer protection previously experienced by Victorian consumers.
Consumer protection is underpinned by the clear outline of consumer expectations and energy retailer responsibilities. CUAC has found that these key elements are not present in either the National Energy Retail Rules or the new Harmonised Energy Retail Code.
CUAC has found that poor drafting and the lack of clear definition of terms make interpreting provisions in a consistent manner challenging. This leaves the Victorian consumer in an increasing position of disadvantage.