Guide to application of the NECF
The National Energy Customer Framework (NECF) is a suite of legal instruments that regulate the sale and supply of electricity and gas to retail customers.
The NECF is applied in each participating state or territory through state or territory laws. Those state or territory laws can also modify the application of parts of the Retail Law and Retail Rules in that state or territory. The objective of this guide is to help people affected by the NECF better understand how it applies in each state or territory as a result of these modifications.
These modifications have effectively resulted in there being different versions of the NECF that apply in each state or territory. Accordingly, in order to understand how the NECF applies in a particular state and territory, it is necessary to know how the Retail Law and Retail Rules have been modified in that state and territory.
These modifications to the NECF are not set out in the Retail Law and Retail Rules themselves. Instead, it is necessary to check the relevant state and territory laws to see which provisions have been amended.
Some parts of the NECF also only apply if the relevant state or territory decides to “opt-in” to those provisions. An example is the provisions regarding the Australian Energy Regulator (AER) ’s price comparator website Energy Made Easy. Whether a state or territory has decided to opt-in to those provisions is set out in state or territory laws.
These modifications and opt-in provisions can make it more complex for users of the Retail Law and Retail Rules to understand how the NECF applies to them.
Anyone may request the AEMC to make a change to the Retail Rules. Any person that is considering making a request to the AEMC should first check how the relevant provision applies in each state and territory. The state and territory modifications may mean that the relevant provision does not apply in some or all states and territories, which may limit the effectiveness of any AEMC rule change. The AEMC cannot make amendments to the Retail Law, or state and territory laws that modify the NECF provisions.
1.1 Example of modifications to the NECF
Rule 73 of the Retail Rules requires retailers to waive late payment fees for hardship customers. This provision has been modified in NSW, South Australia and Tasmania.
- In NSW, the National Energy Retail Law (Adoption) Regulation 2020 requires retailers to also waive late payment fees for other types of customers, for example customers receiving certain government rebates, where the bill is the subject of a dispute being considered by the Ombudsman, or customers on payment plans.
- In South Australia, the National Energy Retail Law (South Australia) Act 2011 provides that retailers may impose late payment fees, but for small customers the fee must not exceed the reasonable costs of the retailer in recovering the overdue amount. In addition, the retailer must not take steps to recover a late payment fee where the customer has lodged a complaint in relation to the bill under the Retail Law.
- In Tasmania, the National Energy Retail Law (Tasmania) Act 2012 requires retailers to also waive late payment fees for other types of customers including customers holding health care cards, pensioners and customers on payment plans.
1.2 How to use this guide
This guide links to two key documents:
The first document is a high-level diagram and table listing the relevant NECF documents, relevant state, territory and commonwealth laws (including the Australian Consumer Law) and other related documents such as AER guidelines. This document gives a broad overview of the NECF framework and the interaction with the relevant state and territory laws and other relevant documents.
The second document is a detailed spreadsheet setting out the state and territory modifications to each provision of the Retail Law and Retail Rules, and the parts of the Electricity Rules and Gas Rules that form part of the NECF.
This spreadsheet sets out how each provision of the Retail Law and Retail Rules operates with:
- the NECF related chapters of the National Electricity Law and National Electricity Rules (eg Chapter 5A and Chapter 6B);
- the NECF related parts of the National Gas Law and National Gas Rules (eg Part 12A and Part 21); and
- the application legislation in each participating NECF state or territory (NSW, ACT, South Australia, Tasmania and Queensland).
While the Retail Law and Retail Rules do not apply in Victoria, the NECF related chapters and parts of the National Electricity Law and National Gas Law do.
The spreadsheet is structured as follows:
- Tab 1 sets out state and territory modifications to the Retail Law and Retail Rules. Columns A to C set out the provisions of the Retail Law and corresponding provisions of the Retail Rules, rows are grouped by subject matter, such as the relationship between retailers and customers. Specific clause references of the model contract terms in the Retail Rules are not included. Columns D – H set out the state and territory modifications and transitional arrangements relevant to each provision for NSW, ACT, South Australia, Tasmania and Queensland.
- Tab 2 sets out the NECF related chapters and parts of the National Electricity Rules and National Gas Rules. These provisions relate to the connection of retail customers and credit support arrangements between retailers and distributors. Columns A to C summarise the relevant Electricity Rules or Gas Rules provisions. Column D sets out the corresponding Retail Law and Retail Rules provisions (this column is not applicable in Victoria). Columns E to H set out the state and territory modifications and transitional arrangements for NSW, ACT, South Australia, Tasmania, Victoria and Queensland.
- Tab 3 sets out the provisions of the Retail Law and Retail Rules that are designated civil penalty provisions. Column E sets out whether the civil penalty provision is a tier 1, tier 2 or tier 3 civil penalty. The civil penalty regime has three tiers of penalties, each attracting a different penalty. Tier 1 attracts the highest penalty. There are currently no civil penalty provisions in the relevant NECF related chapters and parts of the National Electricity Rules and National Gas Rules.
- Tab 4 is a glossary of abbreviations used in the guide.
- Tab 5 is a list of other related matters that are not covered in the spreadsheet. This non-exhaustive list sets out other matters that may be relevant in any assessment of how a particular NECF provision applies in practice, but which have not been included in the guide, for example the Australian Consumer Law and Electricity Industry Retail Code.
Due to the number of modifications made by state and territory laws, tabs 1 and 2 of the spreadsheet only summarise the issue that has been modified and provide a reference to the relevant state or territory law. Users should refer to that state or territory law to understand exactly how that issue has been modified. Relevant state and territory legislation can be accessed on each state or territory’s legislation website.
This version of the guide is current as at 6 September 2021.
This guide is made available for use on the following basis:
- Purpose: This guide is provided by the AEMC for information purposes only. You are not permitted to commercialise it or any information contained in it. This guide is not a substitute for obtaining legal advice. By publishing this guide, the AEMC does not bind itself to a particular interpretation or analysis of the law, nor does it limit the AEMC's discretion in the exercise of its functions and powers.
- Currency: The guide is based on versions of the Retail Law, Retail Rules and other statutory instruments in force as at the date of its publication. It also includes amendments to these instruments that have been made but have not yet commenced as at that date. It does not include any amendments to these instruments that are currently the subject of consultation or consideration by the AEMC, the Energy Ministers’ Meeting or states or territories.
- No reliance or warranty: The guide may be subsequently amended. The AEMC does not warrant or represent that the information in this document is accurate, reliable, complete or current or that it is suitable for particular purposes. You should verify and check the accuracy, completeness, reliability and suitability of this tool for any use to which you intend to put it and seek independent legal advice before using it, or any information contained in it.
- Limitation of liability: To the extent permitted by law, the AEMC and its advisers, consultants and other contributors to the guide (or their respective associated companies, businesses, partners, directors, officers or employees) will not be liable for any errors, omissions, defects or misrepresentations in the information contained in this document, or for any loss or damage suffered by persons who use or rely on such information (including by reason of negligence, negligent misstatement or otherwise). If any law prohibits the exclusion of such liability, the AEMC’s liability is limited, at the AEMC’s option, to the re-supply of the information, provided that this limitation is permitted by law and is fair and reasonable.
1.4 Further information
For information contact:
Michael Bradley, Executive General Manager, Retail and Wholesale Markets, 02 8296 7800
Jack Schmidtke, General Counsel, 02 8296 7800