The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission accepted an administrative resolution from Murrumbidgee Irrigation after it admitted to a breach of the Water Charge Infrastructure Rules (WCIR). Murrumbidgee Irrigation failed to include certain water service charges in its ‘Schedule of Charges’ between 2011 and 30 June 2016.
“The ACCC is committed to ensuring that irrigation infrastructure operators understand their obligations under the water rules. The rules require operators to list all of their regulated charges so that charging arrangements are transparent for customers. Price transparency is an important tool that helps improve the efficient functioning of water markets,” ACCC Commissioner Cristina Cifuentes said.
“The ACCC accepted an administrative resolution rather than a penalty due to the limited detriment to Murrumbidgee Irrigation’s customers. The ACCC has also noted Murrumbidgee Irrigation’s cooperation in the investigation and promptness in rectifying its Schedule of Charges.”
The ACCC has a variety of enforcement options available under the Water Act 2007, including enforceable undertakings and infringement notices. The administrative resolution of this breach requires Murrumbidgee Irrigation to revise and audit its internal systems and procedures to prevent any reoccurrence of this breach and ensure ongoing compliance with the WCIR more broadly.
Murrumbidgee Irrigation is one of the largest irrigation infrastructure operators in the Murray Darling Basin, servicing 3,400 properties and delivering around 730,000 mega litres of water in New South Wales.
The Water Act 2007 (Water Act) regulates arrangements to address the sustainability and management of water resources in the Murray-Darling Basin.
Under the Water Act, the ACCC is responsible for regulating and monitoring water charges. It must also monitor and enforce compliance with the Commonwealth Water Rules. The rules are designed to free up water markets by reducing barriers to trade faced by irrigators, and to promote the economically efficient use of water resources and infrastructure assets.
The ACCC has released a number of guides to assist irrigators, infrastructure operators and governments in the Murray-Darling Basin to understand the requirements of the Commonwealth Water Rules.