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Power Companies named

Hon Phillida Bunkle
Minister of Consumer Affairs

Media release
29 March 2000
Power Companies named

The Minister of Consumer Affairs Hon Phillida Bunkle today named power companies Meridian, Contact, TransAlta and Genesis Power as recording the most complaints from consumers to the Ministry.

The Ministry of Consumer Affairs collected information, to help it prepare a submission to the Government's Electricity Inquiry. The Ministry received letters, faxes and calls to the Powerline free-phone service, with many consumers naming specific companies.

The majority of views expressed by consumers were negative with some 1830 individuals raising 3218 issues with the Ministry – only 38 of which were positive.

While information gathered is not based on a random statistical survey, it is indicative of many consumer views, Ms Bunkle said. "Among the worst performers, in the eyes of customers who contacted the Ministry, are power companies Meridian, Contact, TransAlta and Genesis Power," the Minister said.

Meridian recorded 720 complaints, with pricing, difficulties in switching retailers, and bills being the top three areas of complaint.

As an indication of how consumers feel they are being treated, Contact had 469 complaints, most of which were about service, but also about pricing and bills, the Minister said.

Consumers had 374 complaints about TransAlta's price, service and bills. Price was the main focus again of 300 complaints from Genesis Power consumers, but included a number about billing, switching retailers, service and methods of payment.

"I am sure that these companies do not enjoy having unhappy customers. I am happy to discuss consumer issues with members of the industry and have extended an invitation for them to do so," Ms Bunkle said.

Yesterday, the Minister said the electricity industry appeared incapable of guaranteeing consumer rights without government involvement.

"I also believe an Ombudsman, completely independent of the industry, is a vital part of protecting consumer rights," the Minister said.


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