14 May 2014

Govt warns over power disconnections

4:23 pm on 14 May 2014

The Government is again warning power companies they must stop disconnecting electricity to vulnerable customers.

The Labour Party on Wednesday said the number of people having their power cut off for not paying their bills on time remained high, despite the Government writing to the companies over the matter last year.

Labour energy spokesperson David Shearer said in the first three months of this year, nearly 9000 people had their power disconnected - a similar to the same period last year.

That level was similar to disconnection rates in 2007, when Auckland woman Folole Muliaga, who relied on an oxygen machine to breath, died after her electricity was turned off.

"That tragedy prompted a re-looking at our disconnections but disconnections are now up at the same rate as in 2007, and that National Government simply is oblivious to it and not wanting to take any action on it at all," Mr Shearer said.

The disconnection figures were not a good sign heading into the winter months, he said.

Energy Minister Simon Bridges said while there had been some improvement in numbers, some power companies were still not using proper credit control processes.

"So again today I've written to the sector making very clear my expectations. I want to see really concrete actions by them in their credit management processes, to see these numbers come down further."

The Government would regulate the industry if the situation did not significantly improve, Mr Bridges said.

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Photo: PHOTO NZ