The ACCC to be re-ENERGISED
The Federal Government has asked for approval from the leaders of the states and territories for its three nominations for commissioners to the ACCC, each for a five year term: Dr Michael Schaper and Sarah Court for reappointment and Cristina Cifuentes for appointment.
The newbie, Cristina Cifuentes, has been on the board of the Australian Energy Regulatory (AER) since 2010 and was a member of the NSW Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal from 1996 to 2006. The appointment of Ms Cifunetes as a full-time commissioner is fitting given the relationship between the AER and the ACCC. The AER, who also operates under the Competition and Consumer Act 2010 (Cth), regulates Australia’s national energy market by setting the prices charged for energy networks (electricity poles/wires and gas pipelines) to transport energy to customers, monitoring retail and wholesale energy markets and enforcing the laws regulating those markets. The ACCC enforces the competition and consumer protection provisions in energy markets and it assesses energy mergers/authorisations.
In addition, just today, in a speech on the ACCC’s 2013 enforcement priorities to the Committee for Economic Development of Australia, Mr Sims illustrated how the ACCC and AER will be working together in the energy regulation space, “there has been the recent announcement of more resources for the AER to set up a Consumer Challenge Panel. This Panel, which will sit within the AER, aims to have consumers’ interests better represented in regulatory decision making. By operating as a ‘critical friend’ to the AER, this initiative also has the potential to add a fresh perspective and additional rigour to regulatory decision making”.