Consumer Action supports the Treasury Laws Amendment (Prohibiting Energy Market Misconduct) Bill 2019 (the Bill). We feel that it will ensure the Australian Energy Regulator (AER) has appropriate powers and tools to gather information in the interests of the community, and enable appropriate responses to misconduct or consumer harm that is identified by the Australian Consumer and Competition Commission’s (ACCC) ongoing price monitoring inquiry
However, it is our position that the Bill should be adjusted to remove the Treasurer from the powers and processes proposed.
The ACCC is the appropriate body to enforce consumer and competition law, and ensuring remedies are approved by the court ensures consistency with other areas of law. A court order also protects against the remedy being used inappropriately.
The Bill should be redrafted to remove the Treasurer from contracting orders or divestment processes in order to remove risks of barriers (such as interference for political manoeuvring purposes) to appropriate intervention from independent regulators.