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National Energy Customer Framework

Following the commencement of the National Energy Retail Law in Tasmania on 1 July 2012, the Government is reviewing the regulation of the sale and supply of reticulated gas for small customers.

The Office of Energy Planning and Conservation (OEPC) has prepared this Issues Paper to provide a comparison between the customer protection features of the Tasmanian regulatory arrangements and the National Energy Retail Law (NERL).

The scope of this review is limited to a consideration of the existing level of customer protection in place under the Gas Retail Code and the Gas Distribution Code compared with the level of customer protection for gas customers found in the Rules. Appropriate solutions to address any significant gaps in customer protection for Tasmanian natural gas customers will also be considered.

The OEPC invites submissions or comments from interested parties on any matter within the scope of this issues paper.   To assist with the preparation of submissions, the paper contains 16 questions of particular interest; these are located at strategic points throughout the paper.

To promote discussion, the OEPC intends to publish all submissions on the OEPC website unless the author of the submission wishes to exercise confidentiality in relation to the submission (or any part thereof). Those parts of a submission that are requested to be confidential should be submitted as an attachment to that part suitable for publication.

To facilitate the publication of submissions on the OEPC website, submissions should be electronic where possible. Enquiries concerning this paper should be directed to:

The Office of Energy Planning and Conservation on (03) 6233 2009.

Submissions should be lodged by Friday 5 April 2013 and may be emailed to: energy@dier.tas.gov.au

or posted to:

Gas Codes Submissions
Office of Energy Planning and Conservation
GPO Box 936
Hobart, Tasmania, 7001

What is the National Energy Customer Framework?

The National Energy Customer Framework (NECF) commenced on 1 July 2012, bringing in a new set of national laws, rules, and regulations governing the retail sale and distribution of energy to consumers. The NECF is designed to provide a single, simplified, national regulatory regime intended to deliver efficiencies in terms of regulatory certainty, reduced compliance costs, and competitive benefits to consumers. The NECF does not cover technical regulation of energy suppliers. The framework primarily deals with the following matters:

  • the retailer-customer relationship and associated rights, obligations and energy specific consumer protection measures;
  • distributor interactions with customers and retailers, and associated rights, obligations and consumer protection measures;
  • national retailer authorisations; and
  • compliance monitoring and reporting, enforcement and performance reporting.

Under the NECF, the Australian Energy Regulator (AER) has taken over the responsibility for regulating energy retailers from the Tasmanian Economic Regulator (OTTER). The AER will also administer an energy price comparison service for contestable customers www.energymadeeasy.gov.au. OTTER will continue to provide price comparisons between Standard Retail Contracts and prepayment meter contracts (Aurora Pay As You Go).

The NECF regulates the sale and supply of energy through a set of national rules. The Australian Energy Market Commission is the responsible rule making body for these set of national retail rules.

The NECF comprises a number of key instruments:

Tasmanian Implementation of NECF

Tasmania has applied these NECF instruments with effect from 1 July 2012. Tasmania's NECF legislation consists of the following:

The National Energy Retail Law (Tasmania) Act 2012 applies the National Energy Retail Law, which was passed by the South Australian Parliament, as a law in Tasmania. It also provides for provisions to ensure pre-NECF customer contracts, associated benefits and protections are maintained and transitioned smoothly to this new regulatory framework without requiring any action from consumers.

The National Energy Retail Law (Tasmania) Act 2012 provides for the following:-

a) The NECF does not apply in relation to gas (section 16).   Regulation of the distribution and retailing of natural gas is covered under the Gas Act 2000.

b) The NECF does not apply to the sale or supply of electricity to premises that are not part of the interconnected national electricity system (section 17).  Regulation and licensing of retailing of electricity on the Bass Strait Islands is covered under the Electricity Supply Industry Act 1995.

c) Prices offered by Aurora Retail to small customers under a Standard Retail Contract are regulated by the Tasmanian Economic Regulator. (section 18).  This is regulated under the Electricity Supply Industry Act 1995 and the Electricity Supply Industry (Price Control and Related Matters) Regulations 2012.

d) Late payment fees must be waived if a customer is in receipt of a health care card or pensioner concession. (section 19). This is in addition to the requirement in the NECF that late payment fees must be waived for hardship customers.

e) Persons who on-sell electricity in embedded networks, including caravan parks, retirement villages and shopping centres, are not required to hold exemptions under the Exempt Selling Guideline issued by the Australian Energy Regulator. This variation from the NECF will be subject to review (section 23).

The National Energy Retail Law (Tasmania) Regulation 2012 provide for the following:

a) Sale of electricity by the use of prepayment meters is permitted in Tasmania
(regulation 4);

b) Retailers who sell electricity using prepayment meters must give notice of variation in tariffs and charges by publishing in newspapers, in addition to the other notification requirements in the Rules (regulation 5);

c) When a retailer gives notice of a variation of tariffs or charges under a prepayment meter contract, and the customer gives notice within 20 business days of the intention to revert to a standard tariff, the reversion is to be at no additional charge (regulation 6);

d) Prepayment meters installed prior to 1 January 2008 that have not been reconditioned after that date are not required to comply with the obligation in the Rules to report on self-disconnect (regulation 6);

e) Prepayment meters installed prior to 1 January 2009 that have not been reconditioned after that date are not required to comply with the obligation in the Rules relating to protected times for disconnection. They are, however required to not automatically disconnect supply to a customer other than between the hours of 8:00 am and 8:00 pm on any day. (regulation 6);

f) The consumption threshold, for the purposes of determining a small customer, is 0.15 gigawatt hours per year (150 megawatt hours per year) (regulation 7);and

g) The Australian Energy Regulator's price comparator service is to apply only to contestable customers. (regulation 9).

A number of consequential amendments to the Tasmanias existing energy laws were also necessary as a result of the implementation of the National Energy Retail Law. These are contained in the National Energy Retail Law (Tasmania)(Consequential Amendments) Act 2012. This Act contains consequential amendments to the Electricity National Scheme Tasmania Act 1999, the Electricity Supply Industry Act 1995, and the Energy Ombudsman Act 1998.  

In particular, energy retailers authorised to sell under the National Energy Retail Law (NERL retailers) will have obligations under the following Tasmanian legislation (in addition to those under the National Energy Retail Law (Tasmania) Act:

Tasmanian modifications to the National Energy Retail Rules (jurisdiction specific variations)

The National Energy Retail Rules apply in Tasmania as modified by the National Energy Retail Law (Tasmania) Regulation 2012.  These modifications are as follows:

National Energy Retail Rule Modification

Rule 6

Modified by omitting from paragraph (c) "small market offer customer" (twice occurring) and substituting "small contestable customer"

Rule 9

modified by omitting from subrule (2)(b) "small market offer customer" and substituting "small contestable customer" and
By inserting after subrule (2) the following rule:
(2A) a small customer is a small contestable customer for the purposes of these rules in relation to premises if -
(a) the customer is a business customer in relation to the premises; and
(b) the customer consumes, at those premises, electricity at or above 0.05 gigawatt hours per year.
Rule 10 modified by omitting from subrule (1) "small market offer customer" and substituting "small contestable customer".

Rule 129

modified by adding the additional subrules:
(9) Subrule (3) does not apply in relation to a prepayment meter system that is installed before 1 January 2008, unless the system has been reconditioned by the retailer after that date.
(10) A prepayment meter system that is installed before 1 January 2008 and that is not, after that date, reconditioned by the retailer, must not automatically disconnect supply to a customer other than between the hours of 8:00 am and 8:00 pm on any day, including a Saturday or a Sunday.
(11) Subrule (5) does not apply in relation to a prepayment meter system that is installed before 1 January 2008, unless the system has been reconditioned by the retailer after that date.

Rule 143

 modified by adding the additional subrules:
(6) A customer who has a prepayment meter market retail contract with a retailer is entitled to, without charge, terminate the contract if the customer, within 20 business days after a notice of the variation of the tariffs and charges in relation to the contract is given to the customer, notifies the retailer of the customer's intention to terminate the contract.
(7) A notice for the purpose of subrule (3) must include a statement as to the entitlement of the customer under subrule (6).

Rule 145

modified by inserting, after subrule (2), the following subrule:
(2A) Despite subrule (2), the retailer may not recover from a small customer -
(a) any termination charges or meter removal charges; or
(b) any other charge or fee related to the termination of a prepayment meter market retail contract or the removal of a prepayment meter on the termination of such a contract -
if the contract is terminated by the customer not more than 20 business days after the customer is notified of a variation of a fee, rate or charge in respect of the contract.

Industry Codes

The Tasmanian Economic Regulator (OTTER) is responsible for the Tasmanian Electricity Code. The Code can be found on the OTTER website

Tasmanian Energy Ombudsman

The Tasmanian Energy Ombudsman remains the Tasmanian Ombudsman relating to complaints about the sale and supply of energy to customers in Tasmania.   This includes sale of electricity by onsellers in embedded networks, such as some caravan parks, retirement villages and shopping centres, who were previously not within the jurisdiction of the Energy Ombudsman.