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Ombudsman’s decision upsets Consumer Watchdog

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Ombudsman’s decision upsets Consumer Watchdog

According to Consumers’ Institute, the proposed Electricity Ombudsman scheme is in trouble. Institute, chief executive, David Russell, says he is astounded that the Chief Ombudsman, Sir Brian Elwood, is to blame.

“Sir Brian has refused the electricity industry the right to use the name ombudsman,” said Mr Russell. “He can do this because the law states that any new industry complaints-handling scheme wanting to use the name ombudsman must first obtain his approval. This is supposed to protect the standing and integrity of the Parliamentary Ombudsman scheme.”

According to Mr Russell, “Sir Brian points out that there are three government-owned electricity companies (Meridian Energy, Mighty River Power and Genesis Power) about whom consumers can complain to his office. He believes the establishment of another scheme using the name ombudsman could create confusion in the minds of consumers, which in turn could lower the standing of his office.”

“Consumers’ Institute disagrees. Provided the industry scheme is widely promoted, we think the consumers of New Zealand will quickly learn where to turn with their complaints about electricity companies.

“The proposed scheme is specifically tailored to cope with complaints and problems people are likely to have with their electricity retailer. The Parliamentary scheme is designed to deal with the administration of government ministries, departments and agencies. It doesn’t have a dedicated consumer/retailer focus.

“The advantages far out-weigh any minor confusion that may arise over jurisdiction, and we don’t accept there is any denigration of Sir Brian’s office through the use of the title Electricity Ombudsman.

“We urge him to reconsider his decision. The title ombudsman has assumed a standing and recognition in the eyes of consumers – in part because of his office, and in part because of the good work done by the industry-run Banking Ombudsman and Insurance and Savings Ombudsman schemes. The electricity industry has, after a faltering start, come up with a scheme in which consumers can have confidence. Let’s give it the title it deserves,” said Mr Russell.

END

For further information contact:
David Russell, Chief Executive, Consumers’ Institute, (04) 384-7963 (day)

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