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Commentary

New opportunity for consumers in regulatory reviews

 

I spoke to Brooke Greenwood, a solicitor with the Public Interest Advocacy Centre (PIAC) (www.piac.asn.au) about the change and what it means for consumers.

The Australian Competition Tribunal has expanded the scope for consumers to participate in the Limited Merits Review (LMR) process.

The five electricity distributors that serve Victoria are currently appealing decisions by the Australian Energy Regulator about the revenue they can collect over the next five years.

Energy Consumers Australia, the Public Interest Advocacy Centre (PIAC) and the Consumer Utilities Advocacy Centre (CUAC) gave evidence to an Australian Competition Tribunal community consultation for these appeals on 6 October 2016.

Community consultation is a new feature of the LMR framework, having been introduced in 2013 as part of a package of reforms to make it easier for consumers to participate in the what is a very legalistic and costly process.

But the restrictive format, and the lack of clarity about how the Tribunal treats what it heard at community consultations, has cast doubt over whether it provides a meaningful way into the process for consumers.

In a positive development, the Tribunal issued a direction on Tuesday 18 October, inviting consumer advocates and other interested parties to make an additional round of written submissions that respond to the those made by the parties.

This is an important recognition of the need to ensure consumers have a voice in the process.

Energy Consumers Australia is now working with other consumer groups to prepare written submissions by the 10 November deadline set by the Tribunal.

If you would like more information about participating in the consultation, please feel free to call me on (02) 9220 5514 or email oliver.derum@energyconsumersaustralia.com.au.