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FinCap welcomes move to reduce energy hardship

Thursday 3 October 2019

FinCap welcomes the Government's move to reduce energy hardship

FinCap welcomes the Government’s response to the Final Report of the Electricity Price Review process as a "good first step". FinCap supports 200 local financial capability and budgeting services across New Zealand. Collectively these services see 70,000 people a year. We commend the work of the Expert Advisory Panel and encourage all power companies to actively address the needs of vulnerable consumers and consumers in financial hardship.

Tim Barnett, Chief Executive of FinCap, said today: "Energy hardship is one of the main reasons people come to see our services. This is experienced as being behind on payments, having your power disconnected, cold and damp homes and preventable illnesses. $35 million of the $700 million debt held by our clients result from utility bills. Often this debt, impacts on a person’s credit rating and goes to debt collection agencies, causing further distress to families."

"We want affordable power prices and products that are designed for people on low incomes and people at risk of financial hardship. This will have a direct result on the wellbeing of families in New Zealand. There is a way to go to get there, but the Government has moved in the right direction with their positive response to the Electricity Price Review."

"We welcome the focus on the need for the consumer voice to be heard. This is particularly important for vulnerable consumers who may not individually advocate for themselves to their power company. Power companies need to hear the voices of vulnerable consumers so that they can take meaningful action to reduce energy hardship."

We support the initiatives to reduce energy hardship including:

- the removal of the prompt payment discount. Prompt payment discounts disadvantage people living on low incomes that may not have the cash flow to receive the discounts. We welcome and encourage universal discounts to all customers.

- changes to incentivise bulk power deals for people in the most need.

- a fund to help households in energy hardship become more energy efficient.

- the establishment of a network of community-level support services to help consumers in energy hardship. Three local budgeting services are currently part of the EnergyMates pilot with ERANZ and we look forward to expanding the pilot to new areas.

We support the initiatives to strengthen the consumer voice including:

- the creation of a Consumer Advisory Council and Cross-sector Energy Hardship Group.

- the Electricity Authority being mandated to have a ‘consumer protection’ function.

FinCap are looking forward to monitoring the impact of these changes and will continue to advocate for vulnerable consumers, and consumers experiencing energy hardship.

ENDS


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