Four Kiwi independent power retailers are calling on the market regulator for urgent action over wholesale electricity market conditions.
Pulse Energy, Electric Kiwi, Vocus Communications and Flick Electric today laid a joint complaint with the Electricity Authority (EA), arguing that the current high spot prices set by the generator/retailers ("gentailers") are neither transparent or justified.
Johnathan Eele, Vocus head of regulatory and commercial, said unless changes are made, Kiwi families will continue to be "ripped off".
Claims over whether the whole electricity market is functioning as it should be have been up for debate in recent weeks. The larger energy companies have said the market is working as it should be.
Flick Electric chief executive Steve O'Connor said the prices show the market's current design is flawed.
"This situation is not about 'business as usual', it is about opportunism driven by a lack of well-supported competition – opportunism that has already seen three independent retailers exit the market," O'Connor said.
"We are elevating this issue on behalf of our customers and all Kiwis, who deserve a properly functioning market that enables product innovation and consumer choice."
The four companies are lodging an Undesirable Trading Situation (UTS) Claim for urgent consideration by the EA.
Luke Blincoe, Electric Kiwi chief executive, said under current conditions, the EA is failing to regulate the sector.
"By allowing current conditions to go unchecked, the EA is failing to regulate this sector with the independence and vigour necessary to fulfil its responsibility for promoting competition and the interests of consumers. This inaction undermines confidence in the market, and ultimately demonstrates market failure," Blincoe said.
Pulse Energy chief executive Gary Holden echoed Blincoe's comments, saying a few simple steps could provide a more level playing field.
"To this point, the EA has measured the degree of competition based upon the simple metric of the number of retailers in operation. It is now time to take a serious look at the market deficiencies that are impeding these retailers from delivering better prices to consumers," Holden said.
"A few simple steps, based on sound market principles, could provide a more level playing field for innovative retailers, create a more sustainable business environment and long term consumer benefit."