In November 2009, Industry & Investment NSW invited stakeholders to comment on the draft Electricity Supply (General) Amendment (Customer Hardship) Regulation 2009 and draft Gas Supply (Natural Gas Retail Competition) Amendment Regulation 2009. These two draft instruments will, if promulgated, amend the Electricity Supply (General) Regulation 2001 (NSW) and the Gas Supply (Natural Gas Retail Competition) Regulation 2001 (NSW). The draft regulation amendments propose that retailers be required to develop, implement and publish a customer hardship charter and offer customers experiencing hardship two payment plans in writing prior to disconnection. The proposals stem from the Customer Assistance Policy announced as part of the NSW energy reform process and brought forward in response to the 20 per cent electricity price increase from July 2009. They have been developed with an eye to consistency with the first exposure draft of the National Energy Customer Framework. (NECF). In December 2009, PIAC prepared a submission on the draft regulation amendments. It this submission, PIAC considers the draft regulation amendments enhance the consumer protection framework available to NSW energy consumers and offers broad support for the proposals. However, PIAC also contends that the draft regulation amendments do not represent the optimal response to customer hardship and takes this opportunity to seek further amendments to ensure that NSW regulations best serve residential energy consumers and provide impetus for Industry & Investment NSW to advocate for best-practice protections as part of the NECF.
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