New rule helps life support customers switch and save on energy plans

Australian Energy Market Commission
New rule helps life support customers switch and save on energy plans

Customers needing life support equipment – such as kidney dialysis machines – will find it easier and cheaper to shop around for better energy deals under a new rule announced by the Australian Energy Market Commission.

The change to the National Energy Retail Rules released today allows life support customers to re-use certain medical documents that are needed when switching energy suppliers. This means they don’t have to visit a doctor to provide confirmation of their life support status every time they change energy retailers or distributors.
The change fully takes effect from 1 August. It follows a request to change the rules by the Energy and Water Ombudsman of New South Wales, who said customers needing life support equipment faced extra costs and mobility issues associated with additional doctor visits in order to change energy providers.
Now, these customers will be able to re-use their existing medical confirmation when changing retailer or distributor, provided it is less than four years old and is legible.
The rule change also gives customers’ outgoing retailer or distributor timeframes for returning the medical confirmation to the customer and requires them to hold onto the medical confirmation for a period of time after they have switched retailers or moved.
Customers who use life support equipment have special existing protections under the energy rules that place obligations on energy retailers and distribution network businesses to have safeguards around switching off electricity or gas to their home.
The Commission has already moved to strengthen these protections with changes that took effect in early 2019. These included making sure consumers were protected as soon as they informed their retailer or distributor of their life support status.
This latest rule change adds to this work. As part of this new change, the Commission has also updated the definition of “medical confirmation” to make it clear that a medical certificate can be used as medical confirmation of life support requirements.
The final rule is expected to reduce costs for life support customers and give them more flexibility to access retail energy markets.
The AEMC is a long-standing advocate for allowing consumers to shop around for the best deal they can get in the retail energy market.
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