Whānau should never have to face a decision between keeping essential energy services connected to have the heater on or putting kai on their table. Aotearoa urgently needs a stronger, mandatory framework to ensure electricity retailers consistently and appropriately support the wellbeing of whānau. This should prohibit disconnecting whānau who are unable to pay.
FinCap welcomes the opportunity to comment on the Electricity Authority’s Options to update and strengthen the Consumer Care Guidelines Consultation paper (Consultation Paper). There will always be some who are unable to pay because of cash flow or other issues. Our recent Voices report found that where whānau being assisted by financial mentors had an energy debt, the median amount was $453.18 in 2022.1
This is despite that report and our Put on Hold? report finding that financial assistance from Work and Income for energy debt was extensive. Regulator intervention to ensure protection of the interests of domestic consumers should not result in an underwhelming framework that allows retailers to run a conveyor belt to disconnection for whānau who are simply unable to pay.