Rising disconnections highlight need for Electricity Safety Net

A report released by Clare Petre, the NSW Energy and Water Ombudsman, shows that electricity disconnections are rising at an alarming rate due to the lack of affordable energy. The report showed a 32% rise in complaints due to financial hardship.

‘Some customers have substantial arrears on their account which they are having trouble reducing because they are struggling to cover their usage costs’, Ms Petre said.

The Public Interest Advocacy Centre (PIAC) says that these figures highlight the need for the NSW Government to implement the promised Electricity Safety Net (ESN) and further protect consumers against disconnection where there is an inability to pay.

Robin Banks, CEO of PIAC said, ‘The Government promised consumers an Electricity Safety Net, at a cost of $272 million over five years. This commitment came out of a Government review, the Unsworth Consultative Reference Committee, which showed that NSW consumer protections are insufficient to deal with privatisation. Privatisation is going ahead, but Premier Rees has announced that the promised protections are now under review. The Ombudsman’s report shows that stronger consumer protections are needed.’

‘We were promised a “no disconnections” policy. What we have now is no commitment to any such reform. In these hard financial times, NSW households need a legislated commitment that no consumer will be disconnected due to an inability to pay,’ Ms Banks added.

PIAC is also urging greater focus on the availability of energy rebates, which are not reaching many households struggling to pay bills.

‘PIAC has repeatedly called on the Government to increase availability of the current pensioner rebates to all holders of a Commonwealth Health Care Card holders. The rebate as it stands does not reach many households having a hard time paying bills. The Ombudsman’s report will hopefully draw Premier Rees’s attention to this gap’, said Ms Banks.

To contact PIAC CEO, Robin Banks call 0423 100 807.

MEDIA CONTACT: Dominic O’Grady, Media and Communications Officer,
Public Interest Advocacy Centre. Ph: 02 8898 6532 or 0400 110 169

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