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Consumers to get electricity redress

13 October 2001 Media Statement

Consumers to get electricity redress under new legislation

Consumer rights need to be strengthened for utility services such as electricity and new legislation is being introduced to do this, says Acting Consumer Affairs Minister Jim Anderton.

Jim Anderton introduced the new Consumer Protection Bill to Parliament yesterday,

"The definitions of 'goods', 'services', and 'supplier' will be extended in the Consumer Guarantees Act to cover electricity, gas, telecommunications, water and waste water removal network operators and retailers, and computer software.

"This legislation will make lines companies accountable to consumers for failures or mistakes they make.

"Electricity supply that is prone to frequent unplanned interruption, or violent and arbitrary spikes and surges as a result of supplier failure will not be acceptable. Some companies may have to look closely at the information they give customers, and how they give it.

"This new bill can make suppliers of utilities responsible for compensating consumers for damage caused if their goods are not of acceptable quality, or if they don't perform a service with reasonable skill and care.

"Many electricity companies will have to rethink the limitation and exclusion of liability clauses in their customer contracts or risk breaking the law," said Jim Anderton.

The changes are in response to a High Court decision in 1998 which ruled that the Act does not cover electricity or line services.

The public can make submissions on the Bill which is being referred to the Commerce Select Committee for consideration. Mr Anderton expects the Bill to be passed between March and June 2002 and to come into effect the day after the Governor General gives her assent.

ENDS

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