Jemena pays $795,468 in penalties for allegedly breaching distributor obligations designed to safeguard customers
22 June 2023
Jemena Electricity Networks (VIC) Ltd (Jemena) has paid $795,468 in penalties for allegedly failing to comply with obligations that protect Victorian energy customers who need life support equipment, and who are affected by planned power outages.
An investigation by the Essential Services Commission found evidence that Jemena had breached Victoria’s energy laws on multiple occasions between March and September 2022.
The commission issued 44 penalty notices to the distribution business relating to alleged breaches of notification timelines for life support information and requirements, and for planned power outages.
Commissioner Sitesh Bhojani said these are serious breaches of laws in place to protect energy customers who may be experiencing vulnerability and who need to be able to trust energy businesses to have strong processes and procedures in place to keep them safe.
“The matters demonstrate multiple failings by Jemena across five separate obligations and within a seven-month period, affecting 13 life support customers and 30 non-life support customers,” Commissioner Bhojani said.
The evidence showed that Jemena allegedly failed to notify customers, including a customer requiring life support, of a planned interruption. In the circumstances, Jemena should have known there was a risk that customers who weren’t notified may have their power interrupted.
“This is unacceptable for customers who rely on energy businesses to provide steady electricity supply and sufficient notice of planned outages to keep them safe,” said Commissioner Bhojani.
Jemena also failed to tell retailers that its customers required life support equipment and failed to send a customer required information about their life support registration within required timeframes.
Commissioner Bhojani said that while Jemena has been working to improve its processes in customer safety, errors made by the business on this occasion suggest further work is needed.
“Jemena needs to continue to review its training, processes and decision-making to comply with obligations designed to put customer safety and support first. When energy businesses fail to notify customers of planned interruptions, they not only cause inconvenience and disruption, but can also put customers, and especially life support residents, at risk of harm, or at worst, death.”
Commissioner Bhojani said the commission is closely monitoring energy businesses for compliance with Victoria’s energy laws.
“Consumers are at the centre of our energy laws and the commission will not hesitate to take action where we find energy businesses are not doing the right thing by Victorians.”
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.