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17 June 2020

Consumer NZ survey reveals best and worst power companies

Trustpower rated as the worst performer in Consumer NZ’s latest survey of satisfaction with power companies.

Trustpower rated as the worst performer in Consumer NZ’s latest survey of satisfaction with power companies.

Consumer NZ chief executive Jon Duffy said its annual survey found just 43% of Trustpower customers were happy with the service they were getting.

“Trustpower’s rating was significantly lower than the industry average of 52%. It’s the worst score any of the big five power companies have earned in our past three surveys,” Mr Duffy said.

Contact Energy also scored below average with a satisfaction rating of only 45%.

The top three places went to smaller brands. Flick Electric got the highest rating with a satisfaction score of 76%. Nova Energy (74%) and Electric Kiwi (71%) were next. Flick Electric and Electric Kiwi are recipients of Consumer NZ’s People’s Choice award.*

Consumer NZ’s survey found the cost of electricity remained a major cause of complaint for consumers.

“For one in three, household power costs were a big worry. Over the past year, 17% said they had trouble paying their power bills,” Mr Duffy said.

That figure jumped to 45% among customers of prepay retailer Globug. About half of Globug customers had borrowed from family or friends, or needed assistance from Work and Income to help pay their power bills.

Across all consumers, 12% had overdue fees added to their bill because they couldn’t pay on time.

Mr Duffy said late-payment fees were often disguised as “prompt-payment discounts”. These discounts acted as a penalty for consumers who missed paying by the due date.

“Trustpower has a 15% penalty if you miss paying by the due date. That’s more than you could be charged by payday lenders, which have interest and fees capped at 0.8% a day,” he said.

Four of the five major retailers were still using prompt-payment discounts. Only Meridian Energy has removed them entirely.

The Electricity Price Review, which reported to the government in May 2019, recommended prompt-payment discounts be banned and retailers allowed to only charge reasonable late-payment fees.

*The People’s Choice award is given to retailers that rate above average and meet Consumer NZ’s other performance criteria.

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