1 May 2020

Covid-19: Power company's price increase delayed

4:53 pm on 1 May 2020

A power company says it has delayed a price increase that was planned to take effect during lockdown, but it doesn't appear to have told customers.

An electricity meter.

Photo: 123RF

RNZ has seen a letter that Nova sent to customers in mid-March stating gas prices would go up by 1.5 cents a day and 0.66 cents per kilowatt on 20 April.

One of its customers, Wellington freelancer Danny Rood, said the increase was badly timed and the company should have held off.

"It's not cricket. Who in their right mind would go ahead and raise power prices when they know more people will be spending more time at home. They're going to be making gains from that and then on top of that they're putting the price up just to use power.

"It is a bit of a kick in the guts for consumers who are just wanting to stay warm and dry and healthy."

A Nova spokesperson told RNZ the increase had been delayed indefinitely.

"The team at Nova are very mindful of the impact of Covid-19 on New Zealanders and as an essential service we have been working hard to ensure our customers continue to get the services they need every day.

"The price increase was planned well before Covid-19 and the alert level restrictions which impacted on New Zealand.

"Because of the current challenges facing New Zealanders, Nova did make the decision to delay this price increase, with an appropriate date yet to be decided.

It's unclear when that decision was made.

Rood said it was news to him, and the person he spoke to on 21 April told him clearly that it was going ahead as planned.

He said had not been told of the delay.

When RNZ earlier called Nova, an employee said he could not speak to media but noted the rise had been in the pipeline "way before lockdown".

In the letter, Nova cited a rise in metering, transmission and network costs as reasons for the increase.

"We are changing your pricing to reflect changes in third party costs, such as network, transmission and metering company charges (including provision for our prompt payment discount, where applicable) along with an increase from Nova to cover changes in our costs," it read.

Rood said he understood that it would have been decided prior to Covid-19, but it was a matter of principle.

"It does look pretty opportunistic and goes against that whole mantra of giving Kiwis a fair go."

Rood approached the company on 26 March, urging them to reconsider the rise.

He explained that, as someone who was self-employed, he had lost all income for the foreseeable future.

"In the wake of Covid-19, financial burdens have been lumped on households, including ours, and a steady source of income is now something that isn't as available as it was," he wrote.

"The rise is ill-timed, and adds an unnecessary and undue stress on our household," he wrote.

He also threatened to switch companies if the rise went ahead.

Three weeks later, he had heard nothing back so followed up with a phone call.

Eventually, on 21 April he spoke to an account manager, who confirmed to him the increase had taken effect as planned.

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