PIAC responded to the Australian Energy and Water Ombudsman’s Schemes and Utilities Disputes (the Schemes) Issues Paper on how the Schemes can remain ‘fit for purpose’ as energy and water markets change.
Our submission recognises that, increasingly, energy and water consumption and services are comprised of both essential and more discretionary components. PIAC supports a system where the protections offered to consumers are commensurate to the potential harm the consumer may face should they lose that energy product or service – the higher the potential harm, the stronger the protections offered to the customer. We consider this should not depend on the model of provision and should reflect the nature of energy as an essential service. We contend that Ombudsman schemes should also reflect this, and adopt a primary focus on ensuring that essential energy and water services are appropriately protected into the future.
We recommend that if this approach is taken, stakeholders should be invited to provide input concerning the boundary between essential and discretionary energy and water services.
We provide comments and recommendations, where possible, on the questions in the issues paper.