1. The first is that instead of implementing the NECF as drafted, each participating jurisdiction decided to implement a framework which, while close to the NECF, contained a collection of additions and carve-outs particular to each jurisdiction. In most cases these idiosyncrasies are relatively minor and reflect additional customer protections which are (or were) available in the jurisdiction’s previous energy retail regime which do not exist in the NECF.
The potential effect of these differences is that:
- energy retailers and distributors that operate in more than one participating State or Territory have had to spend considerable time and resources analysing the differences between the different jurisdictions and developing documentation (including contracts, customer communications, information packages, etc.) and operational processes that are compliant with the requirements of each NECF jurisdiction.
- it still remains somewhat difficult for energy consumers to understand exactly how the laws apply as it is necessary to read a number of pieces of legislation and rules together to understand all of their rights and obligations.
2. The second obstacle is that, with the exception of Tasmania and the Australian Capital Territory, the NECF jurisdictions have not met the planned 1 July 2012 commencement date. New South Wales recently announced that it does not plan to implement the NECF regime until 20142. Victoria and South Australia have indicated that they will implement the NECF sooner than New South Wales, but have not provided an exact commencement date. As mentioned above, the Queensland government is still considering its implementation strategy for the NECF.
New South Wales and Queensland, despite delaying formal implementation, have attempted to bring their current regimes into closer alignment with the NECF by amending their existing codes and regulations (effective 1 July 2012) to reflect some of the consumer protections contained in the NECF.
This has put pressure on energy businesses that were otherwise prepared for the full commencement of the NECF on 1 July 2012. As of 1 July 2012, in Queensland and New South Wales, neither the documentation that businesses may have prepared, nor the existing documentation that was compliant with the non-NECF regime could potentially fully comply with the obligations in the energy laws as amended. For many energy businesses, this fragmented approach to implementation has no doubt necessitated an eleventh hour scramble to comply.