New protections for NECF energy consumers experiencing family violence - Starts May 1
As you are likely aware, new family violence protections and corresponding obligations and requirements on energy retailers were made by the Australian Energy Market Commission (AEMC) on 15 September 2022. The protections apply to residential and small business customers in National Energy Consumer Framework (NECF) jurisdictions, which include Queensland, NSW, SA, the ACT and Tasmania. They go live on 1 May 2023.
The protections impose several new obligations for NECF energy retailers, including:
- Retailers must have a NECF family violence policy.
- Retailers’ staff must understand the nature and consequences of family violence and be able to identify, engage appropriately, and effectively with an assist customers affected by family violence.
- Retailers must provide a secure method to identify affected customers and to minimise the need for customers affected by family violence to repeatedly disclose their experiences.
- Retailers must have regard firstly to the safety of an affected customer and must take into account their personal circumstances in any dealing that they have with that customer.
- Family violence must be considered a likely cause of payment difficulties and hardship.
- Before retailers take action to recover arrears of payment from an affected customer, or sell the debt to a third party, they must take into account: the impact of debt recovery action on an affected customer and whether other people are jointly or severally liable for the energy usage that resulted in the accumulation of arrears.
- Retailers must not disclose confidential information about an affected customer to another person (and must ensure their contractors and agents do not disclose this information) without the customer’s consent.
- Retailers must take reasonable steps to identify and use a safe method of communicating with customers. Once identified this preferred method takes precedence over all other communication requirements in the retail rules.
- Customers cannot be required to provide documentary evidence as a precondition for receiving family violence protections.
- Retailers are to refer to customers to one or more external family violence support services, at a time and in a manner that is safe, respectful, and appropriate for affected customers’ circumstances.
- A retailer and affected customer are not in breach of the standard or market retail contract if they communicate with each other using that customer’s preferred communication method.
- A retailer’s family violence policy takes precedence over its market retail contract and neither the retailer nor the customer will be in breach of the retail contract for complying with these family violence rules.
How EGC is supporting retailers
Energy Global Company’s compliance team is working with retailers to help prepare them for these changes through:
- ensuring that retailers understand their family violence obligations,
- reviewing and updating internal processes and procedure changes,
- delivering staff training on the obligations and operational implications, and
- providing guidance on implementing family violence obligations, including required updates to Standard Retail Contracts (SRC) and Market Retail Contracts (MRC).
Additionally, our experienced compliance team can assist with both preparing and implementing your family violence policy. The policy must explain how you as a retailer will implement, maintain, and comply with all the NECF family violence obligations such as:
- enabling your staff to properly assist affected customers,
- creating and implementing processes to identify affected customers and avoid repeated disclosures,
- having regard to safety and circumstances of affected customers,
- recognising family violence as a likely cause of hardship or payment difficulties,
- assisting with debt management, fees, and payment methods,
- protecting affected customer information,
- identifying preferred method of communication with an effected customer, and
- understanding restrictions on requiring documentary evidence of family violence.
If you’re already well advanced in implementing your NECF family violence policy and supporting processes, EGC’s compliance team also offers Quality Assurance services, where we can assist you in reviewing and assessing the effectiveness of the processes, procedures and training put in place to meet these new requirements. With vulnerable customer protections both a critical service and a priority compliance focus area for energy regulators, there are many reasons for investing in this core part of your business.
For more information or to find out how we can assist you please contact Hannah Heath.