ACCC and AER announce joint investigation into potential price gouging by energy companies

Lights Out on Price Gouging

Published On 27/06/2022 | By Aarthi Sridharan | Access, Consumer protection, Enforcement

ACCC and AER announce joint investigation into potential price gouging by energy companies amid Australian power crisis.

The ACCC and Australian Energy Regulator will launch an investigation into energy companies’ profits and margins as part of an audit into the increasing energy prices connected to coal shortages and the war in Ukraine. The probe will reportedly involve regulatory reviews into the national power crisis as the industry faces rising prices and coal shortages.

ACCC Chair Gina Cass-Gottlieb, said the investigation will “provide greater transparency around the factors influencing electricity and gas prices, including profits and margins from a wide range of energy companies” and that the ACCC intends on using its “full information gathering powers” to expose anti-competitive conduct.  The ACCC is likely to be most concerned about price gouging and manipulation (per press reports).  The ACCC has already written to energy retailers to remind them of their obligations in relation to electricity prices under the Competition and Consumer Act and the National Electricity Retail Code, Ms Cass-Gottlieb has said.

The Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) intervened in the national electricity market recently and set price caps on gas and electricity. The ACCC Chair stated that rules were in place to prevent energy generators from manipulating the spot market by limiting supply in order to increase prices and cautioned that the ACCC had the ability to penalise companies who were manipulating electricity contracts.

The investigation announcement follows last week’s release of the ACCC’s seventh report as part of its Inquiry into the National Electricity Market and the Treasurer’s earlier letter to the ACCC.  The AEMO’s market suspension was lifted on Friday.

This post was written by Mia Walsh, KWM Waiwa Mudena Cadet.

About The Author

is a solicitor in the Sydney office of King & Wood Mallesons where she works in the competition dispute resolution team.

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