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Research report
6 April 2020

Support needed for consumers in financial hardship

An open letter to essential service providers.

We’ve joined with 14 other organisations in sending an open letter to essential service providers – including power companies, telcos, banks and insurers – asking them to support people suffering financial hardship as a result of the Covid-19 lockdown.

“We're calling on companies to step up and help customers who are experiencing hardship. This is a time when we all need to support each other and do the right thing for those who have been hardest hit,” Consumer NZ acting chief executive Karen McDonald said.

Open letter

Covid-19 is causing immense disruption to our society and our economy. Hundreds of thousands of New Zealanders and their families now face having to survive on a reduced income.

These people are worried about whether they can pay their rent or their mortgage, while keeping their homes warm and keeping food on the table.

Fifteen social service organisations across Aotearoa, New Zealand are calling on companies providing essential services such as energy, telecommunications and internet, banking, finance, insurance and rental housing to take additional steps to support their community during the Covid-19 crisis.

Many of the businesses we are addressing already have existing hardship obligations under law or industry codes of conduct. They must now ensure that assistance is easily available.

We have three key requests for these service providers:

  • No disconnections or service cessation. Companies should continue to offer their services without interruption.
  • Waive penalty and late fees, including additional interest charges. No one should pay extra while they are struggling to pay bills on time.
  • Pause debt collection. People should not be pursued by debt collectors during this time.

We are also calling on central and local government to commit to a moratorium on debt collection activities and late payment fees. Many of the repayments that currently seriously threaten the wellbeing of people in hardship are for debts held by government.

We acknowledge that many providers are already taking some of these steps. Building on these efforts we need to see coordinated industry-wide commitments to do the right thing by people, their families and whānau.

We are calling on all essential service providers to publicly commit to implementing these minimum relief measures. Businesses and governments should not hesitate to go further.

We will work alongside any organisations that commit to implementing these three fundamental requests. It is the right thing to do.

Signatories

Age Concern
Child Poverty Action Group
Christian Budgeting New Zealand
Christians Against Poverty
Citizens Advice Bureau NZ
Community Law Centres Of Aotearoa
Consumer NZ
FinCap
Good Shepherd NZ
Methodist Alliance
New Zealand Council of Christian Social Services
Nga Tangata Microfinance
NZ Council of Trade Unions
Social Services Providers Aotearoa
The Salvation Army

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