OTTER Customer Consultative Committee - Scope

Scope - May 2016
Role of the Committee

The Committee is an important part of the regulatory framework for the electricity and natural gas supply industries and the water and sewerage sector. It ensures that groups representing customer interests are informed as to developments in these industry sectors and that the Regulator is informed of issues from the perspective of those groups.

Committee's Objectives

The key objectives of the Committee are:
  • to provide the Regulator with input on issues affecting electricity, gas and water and sewerage customers.
  • to provide a forum for dialogue between the Regulator's Office (and other regulatory bodies, such as the Ombudsman, ACCC, health and environmental regulators) and customer groups. Customer groups may:
    - voice concerns;
    - advise of customers' needs and views;
    - raise issues; and
    - provide feedback.
  • to facilitate consideration of customer concerns in decision making by the Regulator and regulated industry bodies.
  • to be an active body in the discussion of customer issues.
  • to advise the Minister/Treasurer and/or the Regulator on specified aspects of the administration of the ESI Act the Gas Act and/or W&SI Act.
Committee's Outputs
The following are the desired outputs for the Committee:
  • The Committee making a substantial contribution to the development of regulatory instruments and technical and customer service standards.
  • The Regulator and relevant regulated industry bodies acting upon comments and suggestions made by the Committee.
  • The Regulator and relevant regulated industry bodies receiving the views of organisations appointed to the Committee through their representatives attending meetings.
  • The Committee providing a forum in which residential and business customers' interests are effectively represented.
  • Members perceiving the Committee as being of value to their organisations.
  • Complementing other contact between Committee member bodies, OTTER and industry bodies that occurs outside meetings.

The Electricity Customer Consultative Committee was first established by the Treasurer under the Electricity Supply Industry Act 1995 (ESI Act) in 1998 to advise the Regulator on issues affecting electricity customers.

The Regulator, in his capacity as Director of Gas, subsequently established an advisory committee pursuant to section 15 of the Gas Act 2000 (Gas Act) in February 2002 - the Gas Customer Consultative Committee. That body had the role of providing the Regulator with input on issues affecting gas customers. The Minister for Infrastructure, Energy and Resources appointed organisations to the Committee.

In 2004, The Treasurer and the Minister supported the Regulator's recommendation to the merger of the Electricity and Gas Consultative Committees to form a single committee, the Energy Customer Consultative Committee, to advise the Regulator on issues of importance to electricity customers and gas customers.

In 2009, the Treasurer and the Minister supported the Regulator's further recommendation to expand the role of the ECCC to advise the Regulator on customer issues relating to the water and sewerage sector. The name of the Committee has been changed to the OTTER Customer Consultative Committee (OCCC).

The Economic Regulator Amendment Act 2015, (ERA Act) also implemented changes to the ESI Act and Water and Sewerage Industry Act 2008 (W&SI Act) to enable the Regulator to appoint members to any committees that he or she establishes and the terms and conditions of appointment (whilst still maintaining the Treasurer/ministerial approval process as an option).

As a rule, organisations rather than individuals have been appointed as members of the Committee. This is to ensure accountability of members to constituent customer groups and to facilitate consultation. Specific persons to represent the organisations at Committee meetings are nominated by the organisation. A proxy may be nominated by an organisation to attend meetings in lieu of the nominated representative, subject to approval by the Chair prior to the meeting.

The Chair of the OCCC will be the Tasmanian Economic Regulator or its nominated representative.

The Treasurer or the Regulator is responsible for appointing organisations to serve as members of the OTTER Customer Consultative Committee under section 12 of the ESI Act. The Treasurer has the same responsibility undersection 24 of the W&SI Act while the Regulator has the same responsibility under section 8 of the W&SI Act. The Minister for Energy has the same responsibility under section 15 of the Gas Act.

Therefore, statutory requirements have necessitated two ministerial appointments.

The following organisations have been appointed to the Committee for a three-year term:

  • Tasmanian Farmers and Graziers Association (TFGA)
  • Anglicare Tasmania Inc
  • Tasmanian Council of Social Service Inc (TasCOSS)
  • Tasmanian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (TCCI)
  • Local Government Association of Tasmania (LGAT)
  • Property Council of Australia (Tasmania Division)
  • Tasmanian Small Business Council
  • Flinders Island Council
Section 12 (Advisory Committees) of the ESI Act provides:

(1) The Minister or the Regulator may establish an advisory committee to advise the Minister or the Regulator (or both) on specified aspects of the administration of this Act.
(2) The members of an advisory committee established under this section by the Minister are appointed and hold office on such terms and conditions as the Minister determines.
(3) The members of an advisory committee established under this section by the Regulator are appointed and hold office on such terms and conditions as the Regulator determines.

Section 15 (Advisory Committees) of the Gas Act provides:

(1) The Minister, the Regulator or the Director of Gas Safety may establish an advisory committee to advise the Minister or the Regulator or Director on specified aspects of the administration of this Act.
(2) The members of an advisory committee are appointed and hold office on such terms and conditions determined by the Minister.

Section 8 (Minister or Regulator may establish committees) of the W&SI Act provides:

(1) The Minister or the Regulator may establish committees to provide information and advice to the Minister or the Regulator on matters related to the administration of this Act.
(2) The members of a committee established under this section by the Minister are appointed and hold office on such terms and conditions as the Minister determines.
(3) The members of a committee established under this section by the Regulator are appointed and hold office on such terms and conditions as the Regulator determines.

Section 24 (Advisory Committees) of the W&SI Act provides:
(1) The Regulator may establish advisory committees to advise the Regulator on specified aspects of the administration of this Act.
(2) The members of advisory committees are appointed and hold office on terms and conditions approved by the Treasurer.

Customer protection is covered by a number of provisions in the ESI Act, Gas Act and the National Energy Retail Law as applied in Tasmania by the National Energy Retail Law (Tasmania) Act 2012. Subsection 6(2)(d) of the ESI Act and subsection 4(f) of the Gas Act provide that one of the Regulator's objectives is to protect the interests of consumers of electricity and gas. An objective of the W&SI Act is to protect the long term interests of customers.

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