9 August 2011
Dear Mr Sarcich
RE: National Energy Customer Framework – Victorian Specific Regulatory Requirements under the National Energy Customer Framework
TRUenergy welcomes the opportunity to provide the following comments in relation to the Department of Primary Industry's consultations on Victorian Specific Regulatory Requirements under the National Energy Customer Framework.
TRUenergy conditionally supports the implementation of the National Energy Customer Framework (NECF) in Victoria, subject to a review of the proposed credit support arrangements, believes that in order for the benefits of this part of the energy market reform agenda to be realised, it should be done with minimal derogations. TRUenergy commends the government on its considered approach to phase out regulations which are either already reflected in the NECF or have become redundant. In examining the Victorian derogations TRUenergy believes further consideration should be given to whether all the retail derogations are required given the way the market has developed with the deregulation of retail pricing in 2009.Where the government has identified that derogating from the NECF is required, TRUenergy believes more thought should be given to how these derogations could be rescinded in the future. At a minimum, the Victorian Government must commit to reviewing its derogations at least once every three years to ensure progress toward the objective of a truly national energy customer framework is maintained.
While TRUenergy accepts that the regulations associated with smart metering will need to sit outside the NECF, it does not believe that the current arrangements will deliver the best outcomes for either customers or the industry. The government should carefully monitor these arrangements and where necessary engage with stakeholders about potential changes.
Retail fees and charges on standing offer contracts- Energy Retail Code 7.5(b)
TRUenergy believes this regulation is redundant due to the increasing numbers of customer who choose to pay by credit card. Given that some card companies charge energy retailers these fees, it is equitable that these fees are passed through directly to the individual customer rather than being socialised across all standing offer customers. In order to prevent customers being charged unnecessarily high fees, TRUenergy believes that retailers should only pass through the actual cost of the merchant service fee.
Late payment fees - Electricity and Gas Industry Acts - 40C EIA and 48B GIA
TRUenergy recognises that these regulations developed in response to specific practices in the retail market. While not supportive of such regulations, TRUenergy recognises that the Victorian Government may not be in a position to rescind them prior to the implementation of the NECF. TRUenergy nevertheless believes consideration should be given to when they might be able to be phased out in the future.
Energy audits and appliance assistance - Electricity and Gas Industry Acts 43(2) EIA and 48G(2) GIA
TRUenergy recognises the objective of energy audits and appliance assistance but does not believe the prescriptive nature of these regulations have assisted the long term interest of customer in hardship. The provision of both audits and appliances to hardship customers have proven to be difficult due to the need to assess the customers energy usage and appliances which in most cases requires a representative from the retailer's business to visit the customer. Such visits are often difficult to arrange with the customer, and when they do take place often do not result in significant changes in the customer's energy usage. TRUenergy believes this requirement should be deleted.
Timeframes for disconnecting customers - Energy Retail Code Electricity Distribution Code Gas Distribution System Code - 14(d, 12.6.1, 4.1(b)
TRUenergy does not support this derogation requiring customer in Victoria not to be disconnected after 2pm, especially as the NECF stipulates that retailers cannot disconnect customers after 3pm. Given most retailers operate in multiple jurisdictions TRUenergy does not believe these regulations addresses an issue which is specific to the Victorian market. Given the NECF offers Victorian customers equivalent protections, the retention of these regulations undermine the objective of a single national energy code.
Compensation for wrongful disconnection
TRUenergy does not support the retention of Wrongful Disconnection Procedures. If retained the Victorian Government should implement all the recommendations from the Essential Services Commission as proposed in its Report of January 2010.
I would welcome the opportunity of meeting with you to discuss these issues in detail. In the meantime should you have any questions in relation to this submission please call me on (03) 8628- 1185.