The Consumer Action Law Centre (Consumer Action) welcomes the opportunity to comment on the Australian Energy Regulator (AER) Powers and Civil Penalty Regime Consultation Paper, published by the Standing Committee of Officials (SCO).
Energy regulators must have the ability to implement stringent enforcement work programs to ensure that energy laws are applied in the long-term interests of consumers. We strongly support the Council of Australian Government (COAG) Energy Council decision to give the AER powers to compel individuals to appear and provide oral evidence. We also generally support increasing that maximum civil penalty amounts payable for breaches of the National Energy Laws (NEL) but continue to advocate that these should be aligned with those applied to breaches of the Australian Consumer Law (ACL) and indexed as the value of money changes.
An effective enforcement work program at the AER will demonstrate the benefits of such work to decision makers in Victoria. Although outside the scope of this consultation, we note that enforcement action in response to breaches of the Victorian Payment Difficulty Framework that occur after the framework’s implementation in 2019 will be essential to ensure that all Victorians have consistent access to entitlements.180628-COAG-AER-civil-penalites