Gas cap rules 'sound and workable': ACCC

The consumer watchdog is confident gas producers have enough information to start abiding by the government's $12-a-gigajoule price cap designed to keep gas prices in check.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission issued advice about the new rules after gas producers were found to be suspending new contracts with retailers until they had more detail about how the price cap should work.

But major gas players still have concerns about the regulations and are concerned about misstepping and attracting multi-million-dollar fines.

Executive vice president of energy giant Woodside, Mark Abbotsford, said delays in signing contracts from 2024 and beyond weren't due to price gouging, but because gas companies were waiting for the new mandatory code of conduct to be finalised.

Along with the temporary 12-month price cap, Labor is still consulting on the mandatory code that's expected to include a permanent "reasonable gas price" mechanism.

For gas producers, the yet-to-be-finalised code creates uncertainty for multi-year contracts that fall outside the price cap window.

Mr Abbotsford said Woodside was not withholding affordable gas supply to the domestic market, just that negotiations were "delayed".

"For any commercial arrangement, you want to understand the rules before you go ahead and engage," he told ABC radio.

ACCC boss Gina Cass-Gottlieb said the newly issued guidance provided flexibility for these kinds of agreements and after the price cap expires, would allow gas suppliers to charge more to account for the costs of bringing on new supply.

Ms Cass-Gottlieb said the gas industry had been issued "sound and workable" guidance to comply with the new rules, but urged the industry to bring any concerns to the watchdog's attention.

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

"The interim guidelines reinforce the disconnect between the policy and the operations of the Australian gas market in practice," she said in a statement.

"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."

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 criticisms it's failing to drive prices down.

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

"Some of these price rises which were agreed last year are still flowing through," he told reporters on Thursday.

The Greens want the government to hurry its code of conduct along and consider an interim code in the meantime.

"Gas companies are trying to hold the country hostage, sparking chaos in the energy sector and anxiety for ordinary people already experiencing intense cost of living pain," acting Greens leader Mehreen Faruqi said.

Opposition Leader Peter Dutton said price caps never work.

"Otherwise we'd say every time you get a spike in the price of watermelon, which we saw over Christmas, that you cap the price of watermelon or cap the price of any commodity," he said.

"All it's resulted in is an increase in prices and greater uncertainty about the stability in the market."