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Inaction on energy hardship hurting beneficiaries

3/10/2019

The Government’s response to the Electricity Price Review will do little to alleviate growing energy hardship that affects low-income communities. Auckland Action Against Poverty is calling for tangible action to reduce power prices, including putting an immediate end to late payment fees.

“The Government’s response to the Electricity Price Review has little teeth, leaving most of the harmful policies affecting low-income communities intact such as late payment fees and inadequate welfare assistance for power costs. The current response by Government does not tangibly address the 50% increase in power prices since 2000. The Government is hoping the electricity market will fix itself, by relying on the benevolence of profit seeking companies and half measures to encourage people to shop around”, says Ricardo Menendez March, Auckland Action Against Poverty Coordinator.

“Families will still be having to choose between paying their rent or paying their power bills. People on the benefit and those on low-wages regularly find themselves accessing AAAP for things like Glo-bug top-ups and emergency assistance from Work and Income to stop power disconnection. This form of assistance becomes a debt with Work and Income, which adds to the cycle of debt most beneficiaries find themselves in. The grants for power assistance by Work and Income need to acknowledge the structural and not come as a debt to families.

“Late payment fees end up disproportionately hurting low-income communities and do not acknowledge that the prices of power are too high relative to incomes. High power prices compounded by low incomes means low-income families can’t afford to pay their bills on time, not matter how well their budget. The Government needs to put an end to these fees which only help power companies increase their profits while hurting families.

“The response by the Government to the Electricity Price Review will continue seeing access to power as a privilege as opposed to a public good. While the Government spends millions on hardship grants to cover the high costs of power, power companies continue to make a profit from a largely unregulated electricity market.

“We are calling on the Government to immediately enforce all the recommendations by the Electricity Price Review regarding hardship, as well as putting an end to late payment fees.”

ENDS

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