Regulator commences court proceedings against Origin for allegedly failing vulnerable customers
22 December 2023
The Essential Services Commission has commenced civil penalty proceedings in the Supreme Court of Victoria against energy retailers Origin Energy Electricity Limited, Origin Energy (Vic) Pty Limited and Origin Energy Retail Limited (together, Origin).
The commission’s claim alleges multiple failures by Origin to meet its obligations under the life support and payment difficulty frameworks, both of which protect consumers experiencing vulnerability.
The payment difficulty framework is a set of energy rules to better protect and support residential customers who are anticipating or facing payment difficulty. Origin’s alleged breaches affected more than 30,000 customers between 2019 and 2023 and includes the failure to:
continue the provision of payment assistance; and
provide clear and unambiguous information about customer entitlements to payment assistance.
The alleged life support breaches affected 11 customers who either used life support equipment or had a person at their premises who did. The alleged breaches include Origin’s failure to adequately record, update or maintain information on the Life Support Register and provide relevant information to energy distributors. These alleged failures put life support customers at increased risk from power interruptions.
The commission further alleges that Origin failed to report breaches to the commission within the required timeframes.
Origin’s multiple alleged failures particularly concern the commission because of the vulnerability of the customers who were impacted, or placed at risk, by the alleged conduct. The commission is committed to helping all Victorians who are experiencing vulnerability to access essential services.
The commission is seeking civil penalties and other remedies, including adverse publicity orders.
The commission will not make further comment, given that the matter is now before the court.