Binding Rules For Electricity Companies Will Protect Everyone, Especially The Most Vulnerable
“The Electricity Authority’s decision to make consumer protections mandatory for power companies is a significant step forward to protect people,” said Kate Day, Co-Director of Common Grace Aotearoa.
The Electricity Authority, which sets the rules for electricity companies, has today announced it will make its Consumer Care Guidelines into mandatory rules. These guidelines are currently voluntary, with no penalties for companies that do not follow them.
“Consumer care should not be optional and we’re delighted to see the Electricity Authority come out strongly in agreement on that,” said Kate Day.
“People’s life and wellbeing is at stake. For the first time, the Electricity Authority will introduce binding rules to say that power companies cannot disconnect people who are medically dependent on electricity.
“Companies will be required to ensure fees are reasonable, and to ensure they are not overcharging people on an incorrect plan. If a household cannot pay their bills, companies will be required to contact them first before cutting off their power.
“These binding rules are desperately needed.”
One electricity consumer, Jim Lawless from Auckland, was charged a break fee of $1,235 for ending an electricity contract three months early in April 2023. “That fee was exorbitant,” Jim said. “In practice, the property was rented to a different tenant within a month (under a different account), so the retailer lost little revenue.”
Katrina Chandler, from Plimmerton, was overcharged for three years by a power company that left her on an unsuitable plan.
“I signed up to a plan with a night-rate, but they never told me I needed to change my meter in order to access that. So they charged me full price for nights for three years - costing me hundreds extra... I think the onus should be on companies to check that customers are on the best plan and getting charged correctly.
“The new binding rules should prevent such problems and lift the standards of consumer care across the sector - provided the new rules are enforced,” Kate Day said.
“We look forward to working with the Electricity Authority to ensure the rules are clear, and to ensure there is a strong enforcement regime.”
“We also look forward to discussing other issues that matter to consumers on lowest incomes: unfair disconnection fees, prepay prices and disconnections.”