PIAC responded to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission’s consultation on an Interim Authorisation (the Authorisation) granted to the Australian Energy Council (AEC) to allow members of the AEC and other energy retailers to undertake certain conduct for the purpose of providing financial and other relief to energy users during the COVID-19 pandemic.
We are generally supportive of the Authorisation and strongly support a number of conditions within it. In particular:
- the requirement that conduct not be inconsistent with the Australian Energy Regulator’s (AER) Statement of Expectations of energy businesses;
- the condition that AER/ACCC representatives may attend any meetings concerning conduct that relies on the interim authorisation; and
- the requirement for regular updates to the ACCC/AER regarding the type of information which has been shared and the material developments and decisions made.
We recommend the ACCC engage with consumer advocates as early as possible on matters that may materially affect consumers. We also recommend establishing some consumer oversight of the outcomes of the Authorisation.