TasCOSS made the following recommendations in its recent Submission on Consultation Paper for the Gas Industry Bill:
We see this Draft Bill as an opportunity to not only provide a “head of power” to the Minister to require a gas retailer to offer supply, but also to legislate an obligation to supply and other consumer protections for gas customers, such as the implementation of mandatory hardship policies. This is therefore our primary recommendation.
If the Draft Bill is not amended to provide these consumer protections, TasCOSS recommends that:
- Immediately the Bill becomes law, the Minister uses this power to require that at least one Tasmanian-based natural gas retailer be required to offer supply to all residential customers who request the retailer to supply natural gas to their premises.
This could be done through an amendment to the Tasmanian Gas Retail Code that could appoint a single retailer as the Financially Responsible Retailer (or Local Area Retailer) who is obligated to offer supply to all customers requesting supply (as in the National Energy Customer Framework).
- Alternatively, the Minister should immediately use this power to impose an obligation to supply on a gas retailer (or retailers) as a Community Service Obligation, funded or guaranteed, through negotiation between the parties, by the State Government.
- Failing the implementation of either of the above, the Tasmanian Government should adopt the consumer protection elements of the National Energy Customer Framework for natural gas customers in Tasmania. This would provide not only an obligation to supply, but also other consumer protections currently not enjoyed by gas consumers in Tasmania, including access to hardship policies approved by the Australian Energy Regulator.