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Power Phone Line Disconnected

Hon Phillida Bunkle
Minister of Consumer Affairs

Media release
11 March 2000

Power Phone Line Disconnected

The Minister of Consumer Affairs Phillida Bunkle has expressed concerns at what she described as "serious consumer issues" raised by callers to the free-phone Power Line service.

The special 0800 service was launched by the Minister last month to give power users a chance to tell their own stories of dealing with electricity companies. Anecdotal evidence from the phone line has confirmed the Minister's suspicion that people have been disadvantaged by mad electricity reforms under former Energy Minister Max Bradford.

"When the phone lines closed on Friday afternoon, almost 2000 customers had registered calls. The majority of these were complaints and many revealed real stories of hardship," the Hon Phillida Bunkle said.

"Electricity consumers have left a loud and clear message that they are unhappy with power companies.

"Each call has been invaluable in putting together information that will be presented to the Government's Electricity Inquiry," Ms Bunkle said.

"While we can not pre-empt the results of the Inquiry, the phone-line has been a vital part of understanding the affects reforms have had on consumers."

"There have been stories of people waiting up to eight months for power bills, unreasonably rigid payment options, concerns over pricing, poor relations between customers and power companies, wrongful disconnections – for which customers were then charged - and hard-lined disconnection policies when customers were making genuine efforts to pay their bills.

"I am also concerned at what appears to be anti-competitive behaviour among some power companies."

The Minister said consumer concerns would be represented in the Ministry's submission to the Inquiry.


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