The Australian Energy Regulator (AER) has issued eight infringement notices to three AGL retailers for alleged breaches of the National Electricity Rules (NER), resulting in them paying penalties totalling $160,000*.
AGL allegedly failed to promptly appoint dedicated metering coordinators to fix customers’ faulty meters. In some cases it took AGL more than 500 days to take action after being informed the meters were faulty.
Some of the faults caused the meters to inaccurately record consumption, meaning AGL billed customers based on estimated consumption.
AER Chair, Clare Savage, said that customers should be billed on actual consumption whenever possible to avoid the possibility of being overcharged.
“If a meter is faulty, then retailers must ensure they are doing everything possible to ensure it is fixed promptly,” Ms Savage said.
“It is simply not good enough for customers to receive estimated bills because retailers do not have adequate systems and processes in place to ensure faulty meters were fixed as soon as possible.”
Retailers assumed responsibility for metering services in December 2017 following rule changes to open up competition in this area.
The rules are designed to encourage the deployment of smart meters and allow customers to access innovative energy services. Under the new rules, faulty meters are generally replaced with smart meters.
Ms Savage said the AER remains committed to supporting the transition to metering contestability to ensure consumer and market benefits are delivered.
“Smart meters benefit competition by providing retailers with increased opportunities to develop innovative energy services such as time of use pricing, and also offer consumers more ways to manage and control their energy consumption,” Ms Savage said.
“The longer customers have to wait for their smart meters because of delays by retailers, the longer customers are denied the benefits of this technology.”
An AGL spokesperson said, “AGL apologises to customers affected by this issue and is now focused on providing them with a positive experience.
“AGL amended meter readings or provided bills credits where appropriate and have since improved meter installation processes to ensure these issues are not repeated.”
*The payment of infringement notices does not constitute an admission of liability, but does preclude the AER from taking any further action in relation to the alleged conduct.
The AER can issue an infringement notice where it has reasonable grounds to believe a business has contravened a civil penalty provision of the National Electricity Rules.
The three AGL retailers were AGL Sales Pty Limited (5 infringement notices), AGL South Australia Pty Limited (2 infringement notices) and Powerdirect Pty Ltd (1 infringement notice).
Retailers are required to appoint metering coordinators under national energy rules. Metering coordinators are responsible for undertaking metering services for the retailers’ residential and business customers such as meter installation and repair, contract management of metering service providers, and billing and payments for metering services.