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Chilling reality of privatised electricity made clear by Victorian experience

Aug 6, 2014

Chilling reality of privatised electricity made clear by Victorian experience

The reality of life under a privatised electricity network has been revealed by a new report out of Victoria, which reveals that freezing pensioners have been told to switch off their heating and “wear a coat and blanket to keep warm instead”.

The Consumer Action Law Centre report reveals that power companies are accused of advising some desperate customers to borrow from family and friends to pay off their bills.

It also recommends that staff dealing with struggling customers should be given lessons in how to treat them with respect.

Cases outlined in the report include:
•    A 77-year-old woman with a sick husband struggling to pay $1500 who was told to switch off the gas heater and rug up;
•    Low income customers with significant debts being advised to borrow from family and friends;
•    Customers being harassed at work for payment of bills.

Victorian energy prices have increased 79 per cent over the past five years and are set to keep surging in the coming years.

Stop the Sell Off campaign director, Adam Kerslake said a similar fate of ‘energy porverty’ awaited NSW, if the Government succeeded in its privatisation of the poles and wires.

“Victorian energy prices are set to surge over the next 5 years while NSW is only expected to increase by the cost of living. That’s because we have a publicly owned system that operates for the benefit of the public, not private shareholders.

“If Mike Baird and the Liberal and National parties get away with selling off a monopoly people in NSW can expect similar price hikes to those expected in Victoria.

“A private monopoly owner simply must increase prices. They have a legal obligation to their shareholders.

“Why would we go down the path of forcing pensioners to chose between staying warm and going bankrupt or sacrificing their health?

“As has been proven time and again, there is absolutely no economic or financial imperative to sell off the State’s poles and wires. It will simply create winners out of big banks and losers out of struggling consumers.”

Further comment: Adam Kerslake: 0425 231 820 Media contact: Paul Lister (0408 231 858)