MIL action dropped
Murray Irrigation Limited has been found in breach of the Water Charge (Infrastructure) Rules, but the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has said it will not enforce action.
It announced late last week it would instead ‘‘resolve the matter administratively’’.
The ACCC says it found that between December 2016 and November 2018, Murray Irrigation Limited failed to publish all required information on the water charges it imposes under two agreements with non-irrigation customers, WaterNSW and the Office of Environment and Heritage.
The breach is believed to have occurred when WaterNSW utilised the company’s channels to deliver water after Murray Irrigation’s schedule of charges was issued.
The matter was addressed by National Irrigators Council chief executive officer Steve Whan in a submission to the federal Department of Agriculture and Water Resources on November 30.
‘‘The situation involved an agreement negotiated over a long period of time between MIL and Water New South Wales to allow environmental water to be delivered using MIL’s infrastructure,’’ Mr Whan wrote in the submission.
‘‘Because of the time involved in negotiating the agreement, Water New South Wales required water to be delivered urgently and requested that MIL allow them to use the infrastructure immediately; MIL cooperated with the request.
‘‘This has potentially placed MIL in technical breach of the rules and also in a position where they may be unable to charge Water New South Wales for the use of their infrastructure for the period before the revised rules were published.’’
In announcing the ACC’s decision last week, its deputy chair Mick Keogh said it appeared no customers were disadvantaged because of Murray Irrigation Limited’s failure to provide timely information, so decided ‘‘it was appropriate to resolve this issue administratively’’.
Murray Irrigation Limited has since completed a review, improved its internal systems and trained senior staff to prevent a recurrence of the issue.
MIL head of corporate affairs Pete Smith said the ACCC’s decision to treat the matter as a technical breach is a ‘‘breath of fresh air’’.
‘‘It recognises that without malice or benefit, the company made an appropriate balance to deliver urgent and much needed services against an administrative requirement,’’ Mr Smith said.
‘‘In the real world that’s called common sense and logic, and the ACCC should be commended for adopting that philosophy.’’
Under the water charge rules, infrastructure operators are obliged to publish information and provide 10 business days’ notice to customers before changes take effect.
The rules are designed to ensure that customers have timely notice of, and adequate information about, the charges they are required to pay.
‘‘These rules have now been in effect for eight years and it is important that operators know their obligations and comply with them,’’ Mr Keogh said.
‘‘The rules help provide pricing transparency by ensuring that all customers can see all regulated charges payable, unless an exemption from publication has been granted.’’