AGL admits giving dodgy complaints data to energy regulator
Summary: Power giant AGL has admitted providing flawed data about the number of complaints it has received from households and businesses, forcing the Australian Energy Regulator (AER) to pull the past financial year's statistics from its website.....
Fairfax Media earlier this year highlighted a number of inconsistencies in the complaints data for the first half of 2017-18, when electricity prices were at their peak.
At the time, the AER said it was the result of a single retailer's inaccurate information. An AER investigation then found that the same retailer’s information was inaccurate for a third quarter, prompting it to take action.
AER chairman Paula Conboy on Tuesday confirmed the retailer in question was AGL. The size of AGL and level of inaccurate data provided required the regulator to pull all the data, she said.
“One retailer – AGL – has recently advised the AER of significant errors with the information it has been providing to us,” Ms Conboy told Fairfax Media. “The errors cut across a number of reporting metrics including complaints, customer numbers and hardship programs and affects the first three quarterly reporting periods for the 2017-18 financial year.
"Given AGL’s market share, its flawed data will affect aggregate results we compile, meaning the AER has decided to remove all retail performance data from our website until further notice."
She said AGL accounted for nearly one in four of all electricity customers and 40 per cent of all gas customers in the areas the AER regulates.
The AER first notified AGL of its concerns in February regarding the quality of the customer and complaints data it had submitted. In April, AGL notified the AER that data for the first half of 2017-18 financial year was incorrect, and in August it notified the AER that data submitted for the third quarter was inaccurate.
“A detailed examination of the wider implications of AGL’s failure to submit accurate and timely information is underway. But the AER is disappointed that we have had to take this action,” Ms Conboy said.
“The AER first raised this issue with AGL in February 2018 and AGL has been given significant opportunity to remedy their mistake. There will be further examination of this issue and if appropriate, action will be taken which may include relevant penalties.”
AGL said it would provide correct data by the end of September.
While the AER calculates the data one way, AGL used a different methodology, resulting in both over- and under-reporting of figures across all complaint and hardship categories.
"AGL has reviewed retail performance data provided to the Australian Energy Regular (AER) and found that some data submitted was inaccurate," AGL chief customer officer Melissa Reynolds said. "While it is important to note this is industry data and has no impact on customer accounts or bills, we apologise unreservedly."
Last month, the AER fined EnergyAustralia and Alinta for providing inaccurate data.
Alinta was hit with $40,000 in fines and two infringement notices after providing figures on the number of small businesses in debt and market performance data for South Australia and NSW a year late. EnergyAustralia copped $20,000 in fines and an infringement notice for submitting data 10 months late.
“The Australian energy market is undergoing a rapid transformation, one where data has become increasingly important," Ms Conboy said. “All energy companies must ensure they have strong and reliable governance systems in place to meet their mandated data reporting responsibilities.”
Separately, AGL flagged its first-half results would include a $52 million pre-tax gain on the recent sale of its natural gas refuelling operations, and a $47 million pre-tax loss due to its decision to exit its residential solar installation business.