Sunday 7 March 2010

Cut it out Ergon, not cut it off

Queensland consistently experiences one of the highest rates of electricity disconnections for non payment of bills in Australia, according to Queensland Council of Social Service.

They're urging those who've been cut off of having financial trouble to talk with Ergon or their supplier for help.

QCOSS president Karyn Walsh says that Queensland has the second highest rate of disconnections in Australia.

"We have had the highest disconnection rate many times, in recent years," Karyn Walsh says. "Electricity retailers have the ability to help those experiencing difficulties. People need to notify their retailer early before they get cut off. They must ensure consumers get concessions they’re entitled to, and retailers need to make households aware of the support and assistance available,” says Walsh.

Along with the QUT Credit, Commercial and Consumer Law Program, and the Financial Counsellors Association, QCOSS hosted a 'Keeping the Lights On' forum to help organisations who work with those experiencing hardship.

They cite the disconnections with increasing prices and more complaints against electricity suppliers. There is now in place a system that imposes daily penalties on retailers for wrongful disconnection and this has reduced disconnections in other States, a scheme that is be lobbied for in Queensland. Last week the New South Wales government announced it will force retailers to publish a hardship charter for their consumers.

Last year around 16,000 households were disconnected due to non or late payment of their bill in Queensland, and the State owned Ergon Energy still reports the highest number of disconnections at over 11,000.

“Electricity is an essential in life, you can’t survive without it," says QCOSS director Jill Lang says. "We're concerned that more needs to be done to promote hardship programs and support disadvantaged families. We acknowledge more people have been supported by the government’s Home Energy Emergency Assistance Scheme late last year, but we continue to call for greater promotion of hardship schemes to ensure people that need support get it.”

The QCA report also shows complaints increased from 19,507 to 31,377 in 2009, a massive 60% increase which reveals dissatisfaction by consumers.

Sadly in Far North Queensland, there's very little choice in a supplier.

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