Development of arrangements to assist vulnerable & medically dependent consumers
The final Guidelines were published in March 2010 and can be found on the Medically dependent and vulnerable consumers page in the Consumer section.
Paragraph 44 of the May 2009 GPS required the Commission to monitor compliance with the Guideline. In February 2009, the Commission invited submissions on the consultation paper "Proposed changes to the Guideline on arrangements to assist low income and vulnerable consumers”. This paper highlighted issues in regard to the definition of medically dependent vulnerable consumer and who is responsible for informing electricity retailers of a consumer's vulnerability.
As a result of the submissions received, the Commission worked with a large group of key stakeholders to further develop the Guideline during the course of 2009. The Commission particularly sought to address the issue of co-ordination between retailers and health practitioners in relation to medically dependent consumers. The Commission held a forum in July 2009 to talk through some of these issues and engaged with stakeholders in an informal way about the proposals. The Commission received submissions throughout this informal consultation period and summarised the responses:
As a result of that engagement, the Commission split the original Guideline into two guidelines and proposed both for consultation in October 2009:
- Summary of submissions and responses - October 2009 consultation
In January 2008, the Commission amended clause 23 of the Guideline in order to comply with the Human Rights Act 1993. The updated clause provides that retailers may issue pre-payment meters to consumers dependent on electricity for critical medical support provided that the consumer has been fully informed of the risk of self-disconnection before installing the meter. This is so the consumer can make a fully informed choice.
- Guideline on arrangements to assist low income and vulnerable consumers - 30 January 2008
In light of interest in disconnections of low income consumers, the Commission reviewed the Guideline in 2007.
The Commission drafted some proposed amendments to the Guideline, and worked with the groups that helped develop the original document. The revised Guideline was release for comment with a closing date for comments of 22 June 2007:
An updated Guideline on arrangements to assist low income and vulnerable consumers was issued:
(Note that Clause 23 of this version of the Guideline was updated in the January 2008 version. If a retailer refused to provide a prepayment meter on the basis that person is a medically dependent vulnerable consumer, as required by the July 2007 version of clause 23, it would be likely to be in breach of the Human Rights Act 1993.)
2005 Guideline and information on its development
The arrangements for the benefit of low income consumers were first published in November 2005:
The Guideline was intended to:
- Be advisory - (in line with its objective to encourage rather than regulate, the Commission recommended that this Guideline be followed);
- Provide choice for consumers;
- Enable consumers to enter into the most appropriate contracts for their needs;
- Ensure that minimal disconnections occur, with standards for such disconnections;
- Ensure consumers who have health and/or disability issues have a process for identifying themselves to their retailers;
- Not cause unreasonable credit risk for electricity retailers; and
- Be complemented by a protocol between retailers and social agencies.
The Commission monitored the performance of the Guideline, with the understand that if the uptake of the Guideline was not satisfactory, there may be a need to recommend regulation.
In addition to the Guideline, a need for better co-ordination between retailers and social agencies was identified, and a protocol established.
guidelines-low-income-30Jan08.pdf | pdf | 74 KB | Last Changed: 07/12/2010 2:31pm