Regulator shining light on consumer vulnerability

retailers, energy efficiency, aer, energy networks

Chair of the Australian Energy Regulator (AER) Clare Savage has launched new research on regulatory approaches to consumer vulnerability, prepared for the AER by the Consumer Policy Research Centre (CPRC).

The report was launched at the Dr Gill Owen Forum on fairness for consumers in the energy transition, hosted by the AER at the Melbourne Museum.

Launching the report, Ms Savage said that regulatory environments must evolve to ensure all consumers benefit from investment in new energy resources and technologies.

“As the energy market evolves, so too must the regulatory environment. While the market continues its transformation, we at the AER are continuing our thinking about what that means for us and how we build on the strong base Gill helped us create”, Ms Savage said.

About the new research report

Exploring regulatory approaches to consumer vulnerability: A report for the AER examines the opportunities and benefits of different approaches to address consumer vulnerability in regulated markets. It seeks to learn from different experiences and approaches in Australia and internationally.

The report provides a contemporary understanding of consumer vulnerability, looks at why regulators are focusing on this in regulatory design, and provides some lessons and opportunities for change. It will be of interest to a wide range of regulators, policy-makers, industry participants, consumer advocates and consumer representatives.

Importantly, the report recognises that understanding the lived experience of consumers in markets is key to delivering effective regulatory responses to vulnerabilities. The report gives an up-to-date snapshot of the lived experience of consumer vulnerability. For example:

  • 44 per cent of Australians have literacy levels below what is considered enough to get by in everyday life
  • One in five have a disability
  • Two in three experience some form of financial stress at some point in their life
  • One in five speak a language other than English at home, and
  • One in six women have experienced physical and, or sexual violence by a current or previous partner.

The Australian Energy Regulator is now using the report to inform our thinking about where to next.