The Morrison Government’s new measures to deal with misconduct in the electricity sector and ensure Australian households, businesses and industries get a fair deal on energy are now in force.
For too long, electricity companies have, in the words of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), “played a major role in poor outcomes for consumers”.
To address this, the 'Big Stick’ legislation which holds the energy companies to account for misconduct comes into effect today, six months after royal assent and will drive down energy prices and strengthen supply.
The ‘Big Stick’ legislation will ensure reductions in wholesale costs are passed on to customers, while penalties will apply for anti-competitive behaviour or moves to manipulate electricity prices.
This new law comes at an important time, with an increased number of households and small businesses experiencing hardship due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The ACCC will be responsible for enforcing the legislation, and will have a graduated range of penalties at its disposal to punish misconduct ranging from public warnings and court ordered fines.
For the most egregious breaches, the legislation makes available two additional significant remedies:
- Treasurer-issued contracting orders that will require electricity companies to offer electricity financial contracts to third parties; and
- Federal Court ordered divestiture orders relating to misconduct in the wholesale market.
This legislation is part of the Government’s plan to deliver a fairer, more affordable and reliable energy system and a stronger economy for all Australians. This includes:
- Establishing an ongoing ACCC inquiry into the National Electricity Market to 2025.
- Introducing the Government's Default Market Offer 'price safety net', leading to reductions in both standing offers and high-priced market offers for Australian families and small businesses.
- Getting rid of sneaky late payment penalties.
- Extending the Consumer Data Right to energy, to make it easier for consumers to switch energy providers to get a better deal.
- Progressing the Underwriting New Generation Investments program to improve competition and reduce wholesale prices.
- Establishing a new $1 billion Grid Reliability Fund, to support Government investment in new energy generation, storage and transmission infrastructure.
More information about the new laws is available at energy.gov.au