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What are my rights as an electricity consumer in New Zealand?

Thursday, July 19, 2018
A mother and her children sit together on a couch in a cozy living room with a tablet

 

We all need reliable, well-priced electricity delivered into our home, and it can be incredibly stressful if things don’t work as they should. Knowing your rights as an electricity consumer in New Zealand is the first step to maintaining a good relationship with your electricity provider. Don’t feel in the dark when it comes to your rights as an electricity consumer!

This quick guide will cover the main questions our consumers have about their rights as an electricity consumer in NZ.
 

What do I need to know about my contract?

When you sign up with a new electricity provider you will sign a contract. This contract outlines your rights and the electricity retailer’s responsibilities including billing. Find out more about what you need to know about your electricity contract
 

What is my electricity retailer’s obligation to me?

The Electricity Authority set out a number of voluntary minimum terms and conditions for their member to adhere to when they set up your contract.  These include offering meaningful choices with a range of pricing plans, products and services so consumers can make informed decisions. They are also required to offer fair and reasonable contractual terms and conditions, timely and accurate billing and payments, and not imposing unexpected or unfair costs. Find out more at the Electricity Authority.
 

What are my rights under the Consumer Guarantees Act (CGA)?

You have a specific guarantee for the acceptable quality of electricity and gas under the Consumer Guarantees Act (CGA), including: 
- the supply of electricity or gas must be as safe and reliable as a reasonable consumer would expect it to be
- the quality of gas or electricity supplied must be such that it can be consistently used for things that a reasonable consumer would expect gas or electricity for.
Source: Consumer Protection
 

Where can I complain about problems with my electricity?

If things go wrong, try contacting your power company first to give them a chance to fix the issue. If things aren’t resolved you can complain to Utilities Disputes. Utilities Disputes is a free service, you can contact them at any time to talk about an unresolved complaint with an electricity or gas provider.  
 

Common issues with billing and accounts for new customers:

Two main issues that consumers may face when they set up an account at a new property or with a new power company are around receiving their first bill in a timely manner and high estimated bills. Check out our jargon buster, for some help to understand the words you may come across on your power bill. 
 

My estimated account is much higher than my actual usage? Do I have to pay it?

If you live in a home with a traditional analogue meter, your company will bill you monthly, but only send someone to do a metered reading every second month.  In the other month they charge an estimate based on your consumption in previous years.  

There are a number of reasons your estimated bill may be higher than it should be, perhaps you’ve just moved into the property, or you’ve been on holiday. You are not required to pay a high estimated bill. The best option is to contact your electric company, most will take a meter reading over the phone and send out an accurate bill.  

If you live in a home with a smart meter you’ll only be charged for exactly what you use, and estimated bills won’t be an issue.   
 

I switched companies 3 months ago, but I haven’t received a bill yet. I’m worried I’ll get one big bill that I won’t be able to pay

Your power company is obliged to ensure they send your bills within a reasonable timeframe. Luckily online billing by email means this issue is becoming less common. When the bill does arrive, if you can’t afford to pay it all at once contact the power company and tell them you will pay by instalment.  If the bill is very late, request a discount. If you’ve just set up a new electricity account, we recommend setting some money aside each month for electricity so you’re prepared for when the bill does arrive. 

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