What is NECF

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The National Energy Customer Framework (NECF), also referred to as the National Energy Retail Law (NERL) regime, is set of national laws, rules and regulations, providing consumer protections in relation to the sale and supply of energy (electricity and reticulated natural gas) to residential and small business customers served through the national electricity grid or gas pipelines. It complements other general consumer protection laws, such as the Australian Consumer Law (for example, in the area of energy marketing) and privacy legislation.

NECF has operated in South Australia from 1 February 2013 and is administered by the Australian Energy Regulator (AER).

Under NECF, residential and small business energy customers are supported by a range of customer protections, which include:

  • guaranteed access to an offer of supply for electricity and gas by energy companies under a direct contractual relationship
  • an obligation on network (poles and wires) companies to provide customer services such as new connections, connection alterations and ongoing supply services under a direct contractual relationship
  • requirements relating to information about and marketing of energy contracts, including the operation of an independent price comparator service by the AER to enable customers to compare market offers across all energy companies
  • requirements relating to customer consent, including that customers must give explicit informed consent to enter into a market retail contract (as opposed to a standard contract or deemed contract)
  • requirements on energy companies and network companies to have, and inform customers of, complaints procedures
  • information requirements for planned and unplanned interruptions
  • requirements relating to customers with life support equipment
  • a customer hardship regime, requiring energy companies to develop customer hardship policies that must be approved by the AER, with certain prescribed elements such as flexible payment options, to assist residential customers experiencing longer-term payment difficulties
  • limitations on disconnection, including processes that must be followed, restrictions on when disconnections can occur, additional protections for customers experiencing hardship or financial difficulties, and a prohibition on disconnecting premises where life support equipment is required
  • retailer of last resort arrangements, so that a customer can receive an electricity supply from another energy company should the current energy company be unable to continue providing the service (for example if it goes out of business).

NECF is administered by the Australian Energy Regulator (AER).

As the legislation establishing NECF does not deal with the level of prices charged by energy companies the review is not considering pricing matters.