As new energy products and services create more options for consumers to access energy offers with non-conventional pricing or features, the complexity of making decisions increases and poses more risks to consumers. The AEMC must be cautious not to assume that all consumers are able or willing to be actively engaged with energy retail services. These assumptions may lead to an erosion of necessary consumer protections.
Consumer Action’s legal team has regularly assisted people with issues arising from the emergence of distributed energy technology. Consumers experience of harm with solar technology is discussed in our Sunny Side Up report. While this Issues Paper discusses the regulation of energy retailers, lessons about the harm in the transition to solar technology in that report can inform decision makers as to how to approach policy reform that ensures consumer can access safe, secure and reliable energy at the lowest possible costs as the traditional market transitions. Protections like regulated information provision, Explicit Informed Consent (EIC) and cooling off periods are still needed to avoid harm but some consideration should be given to redefining some aspects of these concepts to both provide more robust protection for consumers and allow non-conventional services for better consumer outcomes.