Final decision on amendments to Cowell Electric’s retail licence, including prepayment by default consumer protections

20 Jun 2022

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The Electricity (General) (Payment Condition) Variation Regulations 2021 (Variation Regulations), which commence 1 July 2022, require the Commission to impose a condition on Cowell Electric Supply Pty Ltd’s (Cowell Electric) electricity generation, distribution and retail licence that it only sell electricity to ‘prescribed customers’ using a prepayment meter system. 

The prescribed customers are approximately 2500 residential customers in the remote Aboriginal communities and associated homelands of Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (APY) Lands, Yalata, and Oak Valley.

To reflect the unique conditions faced by prescribed customers, the Commission has decided to include the following minimum protections in Cowell Electric’s licence for prepayment by default customers:

  • key information about rights, responsibilities, and meter operating instructions to be provided in languages relevant to customers (such as Pitjantjatjara).
  • Setting a maximum cap of 30% of any tops ups to repay emergency and/or friendly credit debt, with customers able to choose any amount below this they consider appropriate.
  • A definition of life support customers that reflects the needs of the local communities, with flexible registration requirements. Disconnection of life support customers is prohibited. 
  • Strengthened reporting requirements to improve transparency.

Given the significance of this change for prescribed customers, the Commission will closely monitor and evaluate the effectiveness of the prepayment by default consumer protections. While a formal review of the framework is planned for 12 months post implementation, amendments will be made prior to that if required.

 

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