EnergyAustralia has been ordered to pay a record $12 million in penalties by the Federal Court for failing to comply with its life support obligations to vulnerable customers.
In proceedings brought forth by the Australian Energy Regulator (AER), EnergyAustralia admitted it failed to register thousands of life support customers over a number of years, beginning in 2018.
The retailer also admitted it had not notified energy distributors of the households on specific networks that used life support equipment during this period and had failed to establish policies, systems and procedures for registering and de-registering properties that require life support equipment.
It’s the largest penalty ever imposed under national energy retail law and should serve as ‘12 million reasons’ why retailers and distributors must ensure they have accurate systems in place, AER Chair, Claire Savage said.
“The $12 million penalty imposed by the Court sends a strong message to all retailers and distributors that they must comply with their life support responsibilities under the law,” she said.
“Life support obligations are critical to ensure that customers receive important protections under the law, including protections relating to continuity of energy supply and sufficient notice of any planned interruptions.”
Ms Savage said the retailer’s infringements carried potentially life-threatening risks to thousands of consumers in vulnerable circumstances.
“EnergyAustralia’s breaches were consequences of a failure to prioritise, fund and implement appropriate systems, policies and procedures with respect to its life support obligations,” she said.
“The AER will not hesitate to take enforcement action when there is evidence of serious non-compliance with the life-support obligations. This is a key part of our role in protecting consumers experiencing these vulnerabilities.”
By law, retailers are required to register life support customers as soon as they are notified of their arrangements either by the customer or by the relevant energy distributor.
Life support obligations are designed to protect customers who rely on life-saving equipment, such as ventilators, dialysis machines and oxygen concentrators. Many of these machines require power to operate which leaves these customers vulnerable in the event of a power outage or blackout.
Retailers are also required to give these customers the relevant information, including contact numbers, needed in the event of an unexpected power outage.