End date for AER Statement of Expectations of energy businesses and next steps

Written on the 30 June 2021 by Australian Energy Regulator

The AER's Statement of Expectations of energy businesses (the Statement) has been in effect since March 2020, outlining how we expect retailers to support consumers experiencing payment difficulties. Our expectations reflected the widespread and unprecedented impacts of COVID-19 and the subsequent need for supports beyond those contained within the law and rules.
We have been pleased with the way the sector has supported consumers through the pandemic. The AER hopes to see this continue.

On 30 June 2021, these short term expectations will come to an end. Our focus will be on enforcing compliance with the regulatory framework. Effective identification of consumers in financial difficulty and offer of payment plans having regard to the consumer's capacity to pay will be a compliance and enforcement priority area for 2021-22. We have reminded retailers that the maximum penalty for non-compliance in this area has increased to $10 million with the new penalty regime.
We also urge consumers struggling to pay their bills to contact their retailer immediately to access the help available, including protection from disconnection.

The AER will continue to monitor the impact of COVID-19 over the coming year through our data collection. We recognise that the volatile nature of the pandemic means that these impacts are unpredictable. As such, we have developed a 'standby' Statement, which we may apply in the event of further 'stay-at-home' orders. A media release will be issued when the standby Statement has been triggered that will include when the Statement applies from, in what location and the duration of the standby Statement. Retailers will also be directly notified.
The standby Statement has three focused principles, targeting the consumer protections required during a short lockdown:


  1. Offer all residential and small business consumers who indicate they may be in financial stress a payment plan or hardship arrangement.
  2. Do not disconnect any residential or small business consumers who may be in financial stress (including residential and small business consumers in an embedded network) without their agreement.
  3. Defer referrals of residential and small business consumers to debt collection agencies for recovery actions or credit default listing.

The AER is committed to protecting vulnerable consumers and we look forward to continuing to work with you on our longer-term measures through the development of our first Consumer Vulnerability Strategy.

Author:Australian Energy Regulator


15-17 Glynburn Road
Glynde SA 5070