Consumer Action Law Centre welcomes the opportunity to comment on the Australian Energy Regulator’s (the AER) Issues Paper as part of its review of the retailer authorisation and exemption frameworks set out in the National Energy Retail Law (Retail Law).
We are supportive of the review’s objective to ensure the consumer protection framework is fit for purpose for a post-2025 energy market and safeguard against future consumer harms linked to Distributed Energy Resources (DER), we also urge the AER to bear in mind the role of basic consumer protections that should be present in any well-regulated market.
We have been working on consumer issues relating to DER for many years, with a particular focus on rooftop solar. Over this time, we have received many calls to our legal advice line from Victorians who have run into issues with their solar panels. Ensuring basic consumer protections, such as prohibiting harmful sales practices, are in place across the DER market would mitigate many instances of consumer harm, particularly for consumers in vulnerable circumstances. We consider that these reforms should encompass:
• a prohibition on unsolicited sales (door-to-door sales and cold-calling);
• requiring that only regulated credit products can be used to fund the purchase of DER;
• access to free and simple dispute resolution through state-based energy ombudsman schemes.
As the Issues Paper rightly acknowledges, there is an inherent difficulty in designing fit-for-purpose regulation for the future energy market given the degree of uncertainty around what products and services will be available and how people will access them.
However, introducing these protections will have the dual benefit of both mitigatingharm that people are currently experiencing, as well as offering a degree of future proofing, in that they will address harms that are likely to occur with any future DER product or service.
Read the full submission here.220527 Sumbission AER Retailer authorisation and exemption