The Australian Energy Market Commission (AEMC) today made a rule that gives customers more control over when their electricity meter will be installed or upgraded.
Retailers will have to provide new smart meters by a date agreed with customers.
If no timing is agreed, retailers must install new meters within six working days after a property has been connected to the network.
If customers want to swap their old meter for a smart meter, retailers will have to agree on an installation time with the customer. If they cannot reach agreement, the retailer must make sure the work is done within 15 business days. Replacing a faulty meter must also be done within 15 business days.
Failure to meet these deadlines could result in fines of up to $100,000 for each incident, and $10,000 for each day of delay.
AEMC Chief Executive, Anne Pearson, said the changes will give consumers more certainty over when their meters will be installed, and provide a strong incentive for retailers and network businesses to achieve the new mandatory timeframes.
“Hundreds of meters are being rolled out every day without any problems for most people,” Mrs Pearson said.
“More than 500,000 smart meters have been installed in NSW, South Australia, Queensland, ACT and Tasmania, since changes were made by the AEMC to enable consumers to request smart meters directly from their retailers.
“While this roll-out has been smooth for the vast majority of consumers, in some cases retailers have been too slow to have new meters installed, causing issues for homeowners particularly in cases where this prevents them from moving into their new homes.
“That’s not good enough, so we’re stepping in to give consumers more certainty with enforceable new timeframes.”
Mrs Pearson said customers in South Australia have been most affected, as they have been particularly quick to request smart meters. Communications between the network and retailers must also be improved in that jurisdiction.
“The take-up of smart meters has been faster than anticipated, driven by both consumers and energy companies,” Mrs Pearson said.
“Giving people access to smart meters, which they didn’t have in the past, means they can better control their energy use and costs, and will make those vexed estimated meter reads a thing of the past.”
The rules place new obligations on network businesses as well as retailers. If networks are doing connection work for the customer, they will need to notify retailers as soon as they have finished, so the meter can be installed promptly.
They must also use AEMO’s already established B2B e-hub, an industry-wide online booking system, to coordinate with retailers on key stages of the installation process.
Retailers and networks will be required to meet the new timeframes from 1 February 2019. The AEMC is also recommending the COAG Energy Council approves new civil penalties to protect customers if retailers or network businesses do not meet these new deadlines.
In the meantime, regulators, ombudsman schemes and state governments will continue to work with retailers and distribution businesses to clear the backlog so customers get their new meters quickly. This includes a joint AEMC, AEMO and AER workshop on improving installation processes for industry, retailers and consumers representatives in Adelaide on 7 December 2018.