Following a detailed process of submission review and draft consultation, the AER has released the revised Retail Exempt Selling Guideline (Version 6), the first update since 2018. This guideline provides a comprehensive set of information to support energy sellers and detail the compliance conditions for those who fall under a retail exemption. Aside from a series of minor amendments to wording and clarification throughout the document, there have been a selection of key updates that Retail Exemption holders should be aware of.
We have provided a brief overview of these key amendments below and recommend all Embedded Network Operators, to access the final report and accompanying documents that we have linked and reference below to ensure compliance and best practice in accordance with the relevant exemption class.
Key Changes to the Guideline
Hardship Policy Requirements
One of the larger updates to the guideline centres on the addition of a new Condition of Exemption, Condition 26. This requires Exempt Sellers in categories R2, R3 and R4 to “…develop, implement, maintain, and comply with, a plain English hardship policy for their residential exempt customers…”. This policy must at least include the standardised statements from the AER’s template, which is published on the AER’s website. Condition 26 also outlines a series of key points that should be covered within the policy..
Existing networks will have 6 months to implement this policy, while newly granted exemptions will have 3 months to implement this policy. ENM Solutions team is available to assist Embedded Network Operators review their hardship policies and current practices against the updated requirements.
Increase in Information provision requirements.
While information provision has previously provided a clear guide for Exempt Sellers on the type of information that must be provided, the latest update to Condition 2 provides for a more direct form of information provision. Exempt Sellers are now required to provide a specific AER Fact sheet (How to access an authorised retailer of your choice if you live in an embedded network) to Residential Embedded Network Customers regarding their retail access, at the start of their tenancy, upon request from the customer or following an enquiry from a customer. The fact sheet explains what an embedded network is, power of choice options, network charges and provides ombudsman contact details.
The Fact Sheet can be found HERE.
Clarification on who should hold the exemption.
Following submissions to the AER, it has been clarified that if the energy on-selling activity changes significantly, the exempt seller should notify the AER of this change, and take appropriate steps via legal advice to determine if the exemptions in place remain appropriate. The following points have also been raised:
- When the AER is notified of a change in ownership, they will advise whether an individual exemption or registrable exemption is appropriate.
- Exempt seller’s should notify the relevant energy ombudsman of a change in ownership if residential customers reside at the site, which is now itemised within the guideline under section 5.1.
Amendments to Existing conditions within the guideline
-Payment Assistance, Hardship and Disconnection: There are several minor changes to the wording within existing Conditions of Exemption. Notably, Payment Assistance and Hardship under Conditions 2 and 9. Exempt sellers must be aware of their obligations to advise customers of forms of assistance if they are experiencing payment difficulties, as well as a series of requirements around disconnection resulting from financial difficulty.
-Dispute Resolution: Condition 16 has also seen updates to the obligations of Exempt Sellers following a customer complaint or dispute concerning the sale of energy, outlining requirements that Exempt sellers must adhere to through this process.
-Registrable Exemption Dates: Updates to the wording of the guideline now make it clear that Registrable Exemptions come into effect once published on the AER’s website, and not when the form is submitted to the AER.
-Explicit Informed Consent: Information presented to prospective customers regarding a retrofit, must be presented in plain language, and the consent of these prospective customers must also be obtained via explicit informed consent by way of a signed consent form wherever possible.
-Retrofit Requirements: There have been several small changes to this section around the expectations of the AER throughout this process and what they will consider regarding Individual Exemptions. One of the noteworthy changes for applications for Individual Exemptions will be the requirement to provide evidence of steps taken to obtain ombudsman scheme membership. We encourage all potential applications for Retrofits or Individual exemptions to reach out to us to assist navigating this process.
Further to the updates that we have summarised above, there are several other administrative updates throughout the document to improve clarity, flow, and readability. We recommend all Exempt Sellers take the time to become familiar with this document and review the available publications outlining the changes that have been made following consultation.
Should you have any concerns or queries regarding your Embedded Network based on the information above or following review of the Retail Exempt Guideline, please don’t hesitate to reach out to one of our team for an informed conversation in support of your Embedded Network.