Origin hit with largest fine ever imposed for NER breach

Origin Energy logo on side of corporate headquarters (profit)
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Electricity provider Origin Energy has been ordered by the Federal Court to pay a fine of more than $17 million for breaching obligations to customers experiencing hardship and payment difficulties, according to ABC News.

It is the largest total penalty ever imposed for breaches of the National Energy Retail law and rules.

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Origin said its automated processes for hardship customers resulted in it breaching its hardship obligations on more than 100,000 occasions over four years up to October 2021.

In total, more than 90,000 customers in New South Wales, the ACT, Queensland, and South Australia were reportedly affected.

“As part of its case, the Australian Energy Regulator (AER) alleged that Origin failed to comply with its own hardship policies in dealing with 18 individual customers who were experiencing financial difficulties,” ABC News said.

“It was alleged that Origin failed to identify customers experiencing financial hardship, which meant they were not offered payment plans and, in some cases, were wrongfully disconnected.”

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Origin Energy co-operated with the AER, admitting to the breaches and making joint submissions with the regulator in regards to its penalty.

In addition to the fine, the court also ordered Origin to pay $200,000 in legal fees and establish a compliance and training program.

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