CONSUMER groups are concerned that a ruling to allow power companies to ration their supply to households could leave some people high and dry.
A final ruling by the Essential Services Commission this week opens the way for power companies to temporarily interrupt the power to households that choose to take part in customer trials using supply control features on smart meters.
The ruling specifies that the supply controls could be used only for ”non-credit management” purposes.
But consumer groups, including the Victorian Council of Social Service (VCOSS) and the Consumer Action Law Centre (CALC), say energy retailers have no other reason to ration energy supply than to control the level of debt and ensure struggling households pay their bills.
Under the ruling, power companies could cut off electricity briefly to remind customers paying a lower rate for a capped amount of electricity, that they are using more energy than they had agreed to.
”We do not believe there is any reason for retailers to offer such products except for credit management purposes, whether this is explicit or not,” VCOSS has stated.
Janine Rayner, of CALC, says there are ”fairer and more balanced ways” for consumers to manage their energy use and debt.
These include flexible payment options, bill smoothing, hardship programs and energy efficiency audits, rather than ”taking the onus on themselves to self-manage and self-disconnect”.
This week’s ruling will also allow energy companies to turn off individual appliances.