Editorial: Power is having a switch choice

By Annemarie Quill

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Woman Turning Lights Off
Woman Turning Lights Off

The adage "you get what you pay for" is true for many goods. Certainly for essentials like food, wine, handbags, clothes, cars, diamonds - it's worth paying more if you want quality.

There are other purchasing choices which are purely price driven. Power, for me, falls into this category. If I flick the switch and the kettle boils and my ghds heat up that is all I ask. The only differential I see between power companies is price.

Until recently, Tauranga, dominated by Trustpower, was one of the least competitive power markets in the country, according to Trustpower's competitor, Powershop, a subsidiary of Meridian Energy.

On Monday Amy McGillivray reported about 200 Trustpower customers have abandoned the company in favour of cheaper electricity since a recent advertising campaign by Powershop and another competitor Energy Online.

Trustpower has responded with its own campaign. In Monday's report its spokesperson stated that the company was open about the fact that "we're never going to be the cheapest in town but we don't aim to be".

I am a Trustpower customer. Like Ohauiti woman Lauren Knapp in Amy's story, I think it's a good company. I have no complaints about its service, love getting my TECT cheque and I approve of the company's involvement in community initiatives.

But this alone will not keep me. Lauren Knapp has already done the sums. Despite being tempted by the TECT cheque, she switched to Powershop believing she will make more long-term savings.

Rising electricity costs are a concern for many New Zealanders of all income levels. While consumers expect prices to rise over time, power prices are rising at a rate out of kilter with people's incomes. In October we reported that the average Bay of Plenty power bill jumped more than $55 in the past year. Power companies meanwhile generate high profits while effectively to date enjoying a relative monopoly in Tauranga at least.

Recent competition in Tauranga is a good thing. As consumers become informed and start to shop around, the power companies cannot afford to rest on their laurels.

- BAY OF PLENTY TIMES

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