For community workers

National Energy Customer Framework (NECF)

On 1 July 2012, new national energy laws are proposed to be adopted by NSW, with a national regulator – the Australian Energy Regulator (AER). This change is aimed at harmonising the different electricity and gas legislation that had evolved in six separate states.

The new national laws cannot be fully adopted in NSW while we still have price regulation by IPART, so there will be a transitional period before the full scope of the new laws apply in NSW.

EWON supports a national approach to energy law and the strengthening of a range of consumer protections. However, we are concerned that the new requirement for retailers to issue bills based on actual reads just once every 12 months may cause some weakening of consumer protections.

Key changes to consumer protections under NECF:

• Increased oversight by the AER of retailers’ hardship programs
• A national price comparator website operated by the AER to provide independent information on contract offers
• The period for which a retailer can recover amounts it has undercharged is reduced from 12 months to 9 months
• Informed consent rules require retailers to explain the  terms of their contracts so that the customer understands
• New comparative information on energy bills to help customers reduce their usage

Handy how-to: Basic water meter check

If you or a client suspect that a faulty meter or a hidden leak may be contributintg to a high bill, there’s a basic check you can do to investigate.

Check meter accuracy
Step 1 Turn off all taps and water using appliances such as dishwashers and washing machines. Do not turn the supply off at the main.
Step 2 Check the water meter reading and note it down.
Step 3 Turn on a tap over a bucket and fill it up to a clear volume mark so you can accurately measure how much water you’ve let run.
Step 4 Turn off the tap and return to the meter to do another reading. The meter reading should only be higher than the previous reading by as much as the volume of water in the bucket. If it’s higher, the meter may be faulty. (Usually meters under-record rather than over-record as they get older, so the reading increase may seem slightly lower than you expect.)
Step 5 Use the water for cleaning or gardening - don’t just pour it down the sink!

Check for a leak
If the metering seems accurate, but you suspect a hidden leak may be pushing up usage over time, you can do an overnight test.
Step 1 Before going to bed, fill up a bucket or bottle of water and set it aside for use overnight if required.
Step 2 Turn off all taps, including toilet taps. Do not turn off the supply at the main.
Step 3 Check the meter reading and note it down. Be sure not to run any water through the night!
Step 4 In the morning, check the meter before turning on any taps. If it has moved, then you may have a hidden leak on your side of the meter and you should contact a plumber for assistance.