AGL pays $73,968 in penalties for allegedly wrongfully disconnecting a customer experiencing payment difficulty
03 October 2023
AGL Sales Pty Ltd (AGL) has paid $73,968 in penalties for allegedly wrongfully disconnecting a customer for non-payment of electricity bills after it failed to apply an approved government bill relief credit to the customer’s arrears.
In Victoria, energy retailers must provide payment assistance to residential customers who are experiencing bill stress. Customers who are receiving payment assistance or are less than $300 in arrears are protected from being disconnected for not paying their energy bills.
The Essential Services Commission gathered evidence that showed AGL had allegedly wrongfully disconnected the customer even though AGL had received $636.64 to credit the customer’s account from a Victorian Government Utility Relief Grant, which would have cleared the customer’s arrears.
The customer alerted AGL that their electricity had been cut off despite the approved credit. AGL reconnected the customer the same day. In this case, the commission found evidence that showed AGL allegedly disconnected the customer despite having arrears below the $300 minimum threshold. AGL also failed to report the wrongful disconnection to the commission within the prescribed timeframe.
Chairperson and commissioner Kate Symons says protections for Victorians who may be experiencing payment difficulty are amongst the most critical obligations that the regulator oversees.
“Electricity is an essential service. In Victoria, energy retailers must provide payment assistance to customers facing or anticipating bill stress. This includes treating disconnection of customers for non-payment as the absolute last resort. Retailers must have robust systems that reliably provide customers with payment assistance, including timely application of approved credits and grants, and meet the strict rules that apply for disconnections,” Commissioner Symons said.
“We remain committed to facilitating more responsive, inclusive and accessible essential services for all Victorians, including those experiencing vulnerability. Energy retailers who fall short of their obligations to uphold critical safeguards that protect these consumers risk enforcement action.”
The commission can issue penalty notices where it has reason to believe a business has contravened a civil penalty requirement. Payment of a penalty notice is not an admission of a contravention of a civil penalty requirement.