Power companies and telcos: What they’re doing during the lockdown

Find out what companies are doing to help customers.

Person calculating power bill.

Whether you’re glued to the couch watching Netflix, homeschooling the kids or video-conferencing colleagues at all hours, you’re probably churning through more power and internet data than usual. For many of us, that means bigger bills.

We’ve asked companies to step up and help customers who are struggling financially at this time. We’ve called on them to:

  • drop late-payment fees
  • put debt collection on hold
  • stop disconnections.

Here's what the big five power companies and three major telcos told us they’re doing.

Power companies

Contact

  • Charging late-payment fees? No, provided customers get in touch before the payment due date. But customers on plans with “prompt-payment discounts” may lose the “discount” if they don’t pay by the due date.
  • Sending debts to debt collectors? No.
  • Disconnecting customers for non-payment? Not during level 4.

Genesis

  • Charging late-payment fees? No. But customers on plans with “prompt-payment discounts” may lose the “discount” (5 to 15%) if they don’t pay by the due date.
  • Sending debts to debt collectors? No.
  • Disconnecting customers for non-payment? No.

Mercury

  • Charging late-payment fees? Waived if customers let Mercury know they’re financially affected by Covid-19. But customers on plans with “prompt-payment discounts” may lose the “discount” (10%) if they don’t pay by the due date.
  • Sending debts to debt collectors? Not if customers let Mercury know they’re financially affected by Covid-19.
  • Disconnecting customers for non-payment? Not if customers let Mercury know they’re financially affected by Covid-19.

Meridian

  • Charging late-payment fees? No.
  • Sending debts to debt collectors? No.
  • Disconnecting customers for non-payment? Meridian will work with customers to ensure power isn’t unfairly disconnected because of unpaid bills.

Trustpower

  • Charging late-payment fees? No. But customers may lose the 15% “prompt-payment” discount if they don’t pay by the due date.
  • Sending debts to debt collectors? No.
  • Disconnecting customers for non-payment? No.

Telcos

Spark

  • Charging late-payment fees? No, waived for 60 days from 23 March 2020.
  • Sending debts to debt collectors? Yes, if all other avenues have been exhausted.
  • Disconnecting customers for non-payment? No, customers experiencing hardship during the pandemic won’t be disconnected.

Spark is waiving overage charges for customers on capped broadband plans.

Vodafone

  • Charging late-payment fees? Only waived if customer applies and is approved for hardship relief. Waiver is for 6 months from March 2020.
  • Sending debts to debt collectors? Only stopped if customer applies and is approved for hardship relief. Period is for 6 months from March 2020.
  • Disconnecting customers for non-payment? Only stopped if customer applies and is approved for hardship relief. Period is for 6 months from March 2020.

Vodafone has removed caps from capped broadband plans until the end of June 2020.

2degrees

  • Charging late payment fees? No. Fees are being waived until the end of June 2020.
  • Sending debts to debt collectors? Yes, if all other options have been exhausted.
  • Disconnecting customers for non-payment? 2degrees says it “will do what we can to help [customers] stay connected”.

2degrees is providing unlimited data until June 2020 to any customer on a limited data plan.

Support needed for consumers in financial hardship

Support needed for consumers in financial hardship

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Support needed for consumers in financial hardship

The Covid-19 lockdown means hundreds of thousands of Kiwis face having to survive on a reduced income. We’ve joined with 14 other organisations in calling on essential service providers to do the right thing and halt disconnections, waive late fees and pause debt collection.

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Member comments

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Peter & Barbara H.
29 Apr 2020
Ripped off

I am coming to the end of a 2 yr agreement with genesis energy
I have been offered a new contract which reduces my prompt pymt discount from 15% to 6% for a new 12 mth agreement and
my daily rate increases from
1.44 to 1.92 daily
My anytime rate from 0.23 to 0.24c
and my controlled rate from 0.19 to 0.21c
The sweetner is a $50 credit to the account
Timing seems very inappropriate for this increase

William I.
25 Apr 2020
Power company

We are with Genesis and our power price has come down as of the 1st April. They believe it to save us 5%. This is good for us as winter is almost here.

Mark D.
25 Apr 2020
Vodafone- not true!

Despite what they may say my Vodafone broadband account was disconnected this last week. And it was a horrific exercise to get it reconnected. Their statement is untrue.

Sonja G.
25 Apr 2020
Agree, Vodafone mandate is untrue

Vodafone disconnected my elderly mother's internet and phone as she is not able to pay her bill until Post Offices open again. She doesn't use internet banking or own a credit card, lives on her own and is immune compromised. Phone calls to Vodafone (in India) proved futile. I have since paid her bill. Absolutely disgusted with this lack of service.

Karen S.
26 Apr 2020
My brother now has only his cell phone contract with Vodafone

He was one day late to pay it and was instantly disconnected. Upon managing to get a "person" on the phone they apologised and used a technical glitch as the excuse. Was reconnected within 2 hours. He's only sticking with them till his contract ends then switching to 2Degrees which he's already done with his home phone and broadband due to further problems with Vodafone.

Sonja G.
26 Apr 2020
Vodafone dishonest

Further to my earlier comment and after seeing yet another post about Vodafone's shoddy attitude during this crisis, why can't they be held accountable for these blatant breaches of their own Covid 19 mandate? No doubt they will continue to get away with this.
I find it ludicrous that Vodafone jobs in NZ are being lost, yet when you phone their contact numbers you are speaking with someone in India, who has no idea of our situation in NZ and who, from my experience, cannot assist you anyway.
Does anyone have positive experiences with any NZ Telcos out there or are they all of the same calibre as Vodafone so not worth changing?

Neil B.
25 Apr 2020
Just two telcos?

Why is it just Spark and Vodafone mentioned? What about the others like 2degree who I know are doing similar?

Sonja G.
26 Apr 2020
Saying is not doing

Be wary of what the Telcos SAY they are doing versus what they actually ARE doing! See the comments above about Vodafone disconnecting customers during our Level 4 lockdown. Their Covid 19 mandate is a work of fiction!

Consumer staff
30 Apr 2020
Re: Just two telcos?

Hi Neil,

To date, we've published information on what the biggest telcos are doing. We'll add details about others soon.

Kind regards,
Frank - Consumer NZ staff

John & Christina G.
25 Apr 2020
John G

As a Mercury Energy customer they have given us 1 free hour of power day during some of this time. It all helps, much appreciated.

Nick T.
25 Apr 2020
Price drop

When will power companies in north island pass on their reduction in line charges.?
"Electricity users in Wellington and much of the lower North Island should see savings totalling $168 million on their power bills over the next one to three years after the Commerce Commission proposed reducing Powerco and Wellington Electricity's charges" from 1st April 2020

Linda C.
25 Apr 2020
Free Power Hour + Winter Energy Payment

Was pleasantly surprised when my provider, Mercury, offered me the choice of the same hour each day with free power for a limited time. So I picked the time I would most likely benefit and can warm up the house in the morning, do the washing, and baking etc. and don't have a spike in my power bill. Also, for those getting winter energy payment, power being used now will be paid around the time these hit your bank a/c, so some relief!

LLOYD D.
25 Apr 2020
Prompt payment discounts

These are simply late payment penalties. Call them what they are. Isn't the current govt planing to ban them?

Anthony G.
25 Apr 2020
Prompt payment discount

The PPDiscount can be viewed as such or as a Late payment penalty. Both descriptions are accurate. It is good business practice to encourage consumers to pay on time.
If you look at the people that can’t pay their bills on time or at all.
They tend to be poor to be poorly educated they tend to have poor role models. They tend to see life as something that happens to you rather than something that you have control over
Something that the middle classes have trouble understanding because they project themselves onto the poor.
But the reality is that the poor don’t see cause and effect that is one of the reasons that they stay poor and as a result you can lecture them on financial security until you are blue in the face but you are wasting your time.

Keith S.
25 Apr 2020
Market driven?

Many commercial electricity users are hibernating during the lockdown. One would expect the lower demand would lead to lower prices, but market forces seem to flow in one direction, and that’s up. I am so grateful to Max Bradford and the free market!