Watchdog failing desperate consumers

The state energy watchdog in Victoria is failing to enforce a set of rules which will protect struggling consumers from rising property prices.

The Essential Services Commission has the strength to implement the Energy Retail Code which makes it much harder to disconnect customers who are suffering from rising electricity prices.

Despite this, nearly 11,000 people had their power cut off and then reinstated at the same address in the 2011-12 financial year, The Age reports.

Some are saying that this number is too high and that the rules should go as far as to forbid the disconnection of those who are on Centrelink.

The of the Consumer Utilities Advocacy Centre executive director  Jo Benvenuti told the publication it's concerning that the frameworks are present to prevent the cut off of utilities, but aren't being used.

She commented: "Disconnection should be an absolute last resort after the retailers have complied with all the requirements including that they identify customers in financial hardship and offer consumers a payment plan - I don't think these figures are possible if that is being adhered to."

The protections that should be available to customers, Jo added, include the power company contacting the client and discussing a system of repayment.

Posted by Charlie Moore