Origin Energy Hit With $17 Million Fine
Origin Energy has been dealt a record $17 million fine after years of hardship obligation breaches.
The fine, ordered by the Federal Court, comes after the Australian Energy Regulator brought legal action against the energy provider for over 100,000 instances of shirking their obligations to protect customers unable to pay their power bills.
Origin’s breaches include establishing new customer payment plans when a previous one had been cancelled for non-payment; increasing payment amounts without considering capacity to pay; and cancelling payment plans in instances when it was unable to discuss with the customer a review of the plan.
Over 90,000 customers across four states were affected by the breaches between January 2018 and October 2021.
Australian Energy Regulator chairwoman Clare Savage (pictured above) said the record fine “should send a strong deterrence message to all energy retailers that they must maintain and implement their hardship policies in accordance with the law, to protect customers experiencing financial distress.
“This message is even more important in the current market conditions where customers are facing significant cost of living pressures, including as a result of recent energy price rises.”
Origin will also have to pay $200,000 in legal costs.
This is the third big fine handed out in the energy sector this week.
A $900,000 fine was handed out to South Australia’s Hornsdale Power Reserve, operators of the large Tesla battery, for falsely claiming it could handle back-up services to the power grid.
AGL Energy was also fined $3.5 million over operational settings at wind farms that hampered AEMO’s ability to control the power grid during 2016 state-wide blackouts in South Australia.