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National Energy Customer Framework to be introduced on 1 July 2015

1 June 2015

The National Energy Customer Framework (NECF), being introduced to Queensland on 1 July 2015, will provide electricity consumers with better tools to engage confidently in the retail market and better support if they are in financial hardship.

NECF is a set of national laws, rules and regulations governing the sale and supply of energy (electricity and reticulated natural gas) to consumers.

It was developed under cooperative arrangements between Queensland, the Australian Government, New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia, Tasmania, Western Australia, the Northern Territory and the Australian Capital Territory and works by each participating state applying the framework as a law of its jurisdiction.

NECF aims to reduce regulatory red tape for the electricity industry, drive greater efficiencies and foster increased competition in the retail market.

Under NECF, retailers will only have to comply with a single set of energy laws, rather than a different set of laws for each state they operate in. The potential introduction of a national licensing regime and a national regulator—the Australian Energy Regulator (AER)—will reduce red tape and costs, and promote competition by making it easier for retailers to operate across National Energy Market borders.

Residential consumers and small customers won't notice a difference in the way their electricity is supplied, but NECF will boost customer protections by requiring retailers to more actively identify, and offer assistance to, customers finding it difficult to pay their bill on time.

Under NECF, a small customer includes anyone who uses less than 100MW (electricity) or 1TJ (gas) per year.

Consumer benefits

NECF will benefit residential consumers and small businesses in a number of ways. For example:  

  • Consumers on standard retail contracts can ask to make regular, advanced payments on their bills to reduce the impact of seasonal energy use and to make bills more predictable.
  • Distributors can no longer ask customers for security deposits.
  • Better marketing practices—retailers must hold and respect no contact lists and must comply with do not knock signs.
  • Longer notice periods for planned interruptions to supply.
  • Distributors will need to assess new connection applications within defined timeframes.

Gas customers will get a similar level of support as electricity customers, meaning it will be much easier for dual fuel households to understand their rights, and receive better support if they experience financial difficulty.

Consumers in financial hardship

Queensland electricity retailers are required to support their customers experiencing financial difficulty due to hardship. NECF will extend these arrangements to reticulated natural gas customers and ensure regulatory oversight of retailer hardship policies.

NECF will also provide better support to consumers if they are struggling to pay their bills. For example:

  • retailers must develop hardship policies aimed at helping consumers to manage their bills on an ongoing basis if they are experiencing financial difficulty due to hardship
  • hardship policies must have strategies to proactively identify consumers experiencing financial difficulty
  • retailers must tell consumers about concessions and rebates in disconnection warning notices.

Consumers in on-supply situations

Consumers in on-supply situations (such as retirement villages, caravan parks or businesses in shopping centres) will get better protections (e.g. access to payment options and improved access to government concessions and better, more detailed information on their bills).

Extra benefits for Queensland

Queensland is adding additional support measures to the national package to help consumers.

Residential consumers and small businesses

  • Retailers must tell new customers about flexible payment options such as pay in advance at the time they sign up.
  • Retailers can't charge electricity customers upfront for meter tests.
  • Retailers offering market contracts must offer at least 1 with no exit fees. All other market contract exit fees must be capped at $20.
  • Consumers on market contracts will get:
    • 10 business days advanced notice of price increases
    • 20 business days advanced notice of the expiry of benefits such as price discounts.

Regional and remote support

  • NECF customer protections will be extended to consumers on the isolated Ergon Energy distribution networks.
  • Consumers with card-operated meters in remote Indigenous communities will receive more rights, better access to rebates and concessions, and a right to a standard meter at no cost if they have life support equipment needs at their premises.

 

Related links

Check your eligibility for energy rebates and concessions.