Fines for gas price cap misstep 'unlikely'

The consumer watchdog has moved to allay gas industry fears of steep fines for producers that unintentionally break the price cap rules.

The federal government intervened in the energy market late last year, implementing a temporary 12-month price cap on coal and gas.

Designed to keep gas prices down, the interim measure has sparked confusion in the energy market and in some cases halted negotiations with retailers for new gas contracts.

Gas producers have raised concerns about the price cap and the incoming mandatory code of conduct that will kick in once the price order expires.

The industry called for more information to avoid penalties, with a breach of the new rules attracting fines of $50 million or three times the value of the company's profit from the deal, whichever is higher.

Australian Competition and Consumer Commission chair Gina Cass-Gottlieb said the watchdog always takes a proportionate approach to enforcement.

"We are looking at where the most serious conduct is, where the conduct had the most harm, where the conduct has been most deliberate," she told AAP.

She also said for a court to impose such a penalty, the watchdog would have to produce an "incredibly detailed, factual and evidentiary assessment" of any wrongdoing.

"So the suggestions that there would be sort of accidental, incidental circumstances that would result in a $50 million penalty - that is not in the nature of the way the ACCC approaches its enforcement role."

But Australian Petroleum Production & Exploration Association (APPEA) Chief Executive Samantha McCulloch said the interim guidelines did little to resolve the uncertainties in the market and underscored the policy's rushed nature.

"It is clear that the new rules will make it extremely challenging for producers to continue to provide the flexibility of gas supply required by customers," she said in a statement.

Ms McCulloch said with up to $50 million penalties, it was entirely reasonable for the industry to require certainty about the rules it had been asked to operate under.

"To date, the government's interventions have created uncertainty and confusion in the gas market, while delivering little or no benefit to consumers."

Government ministers have been defending the price cap from criticism it's failing to drive prices down.

Treasurer Jim Chalmers said these claims were based on energy prices locked in through deals signed last year.

"Some of these price rises which were agreed last year and are still flowing through as we see them reported in January," he told reporters on Thursday.

He said the regulations would help keep a lid on sky-high prices driven by the war in Ukraine and would need some time to take effect.