Power company satisfaction survey 2020

One power company drops to three-year low in our annual satisfaction survey.

Power lines.

“Trustpower makes it easy.” That’s the claim the company makes in its advertising. However, our latest customer satisfaction survey tells a different story. The power retailer ranked bottom of the pack with just 43% of its customers happy with the service they were getting.

Trustpower’s rating was the lowest any of the big five power companies have scored in our past three surveys. It also got the worst rating for competitive pricing.

Satisfaction stakes

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Power costs

If you begrudge the amount you’re paying for power, you’re in good company. Price remains a major cause of complaint for consumers.

Our survey found just 12% believed power retailers always charged households fairly.

Of those who’d thought about switching, the most common reason for not going ahead was that they couldn’t find a price good-enough to tempt them.

For one in three, household power costs were a major concern. Over the past year, 17% said they had trouble paying their power bills.

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.

Fifty-one percent of Globug customers in our survey had previously had their power cut off because they couldn’t meet payments.

Millions overpaid

The economic fallout from the Covid-19 lockdown is likely to see more households struggling with power costs this winter. Many could be paying more than they should because their retailer hasn’t put them on the right plan.

Research published by the Electricity Price Review panel, appointed by Energy and Resources Minister Megan Woods, found retailers could be earning as much as $39 million in extra revenue because customers were on the wrong energy plan.

The panel also estimated retailers were getting another $45 million from so-called “prompt-payment discounts”. These discounts effectively act as a penalty for consumers who miss paying by the due date. They can add another 15% on to your power bill.

In November, Minister Woods wrote to power companies requesting they drop prompt-payment discounts and ensure all customers got the “early” payment rate. However, four of the five major retailers still use them. Only Meridian has dropped the charges entirely.

Given companies’ failure to act, we think the government needs to regulate these late payment fees.

Survey: consumers' concerns

In the past 12 months:

  • 17% experienced difficulty paying their bill
  • 16% missed paying by the due date
  • 12% had overdue fees added to their bill
  • 11% borrowed from family or friends to pay the bill
  • 6% took out a loan to pay the bill
  • 8% have had a power company refuse to accept them as a customer because they’ve previously missed payments
  • 6% have had to switch to a prepay plan because they had trouble paying their bill

Across all consumers:

  • 8% have had a power company refuse to accept them as a customer because they’ve previously missed payments
  • 6% have had to switch to a prepay plan because they had trouble paying their bill.

About our survey

OUR DATA are from a nationally representative survey of 1507 New Zealanders, aged 18 and over, carried out in March and April 2020. Satisfaction rating shows the proportion of respondents who scored their retailer 8, 9 or 10 on a scale from 0 (very dissatisfied) to 10 (very satisfied). Ratings are for providers that had 30 or more responses in our survey. Response numbers are shown in brackets. Customers and Market share data are for residential connections as at April 2020 and sourced from the Electricity Authority. *Slingshot is a brand of Vocus; customer numbers and market share are for all Vocus brands as Slingshot figures aren’t separately recorded by the authority. Figures may add to +/- 100% due to rounding.

What is People's Choice and Consumer Trusted?

People's Choice.

The People’s Choice award is given to providers that rate above average for customer satisfaction and meet our other performance criteria. Learn more about our award here.

Consumer Trusted.

Consumer Trusted accreditation is awarded to businesses that meet our strict code of conduct, and is designed to ensure high standards of customer service and confidence. Learn more about the programme here.

Struggling with bills?

If you’re having trouble paying your bill, contact your power company. It should discuss flexible payment options with you, check you’re on the best plan, and let you know what support is available from budgeting agencies and Work and Income.

Power companies are expected to assist customers facing financial difficulties and provide alternative payment options.

If you need budgeting advice, you can get free and confidential help from MoneyTalks (0800 345 123). MoneyTalks is run by FinCap (the National Building Financial Capability Charitable Trust) with support from the Ministry of Social Development.

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