A bitter war of words has erupted between Trustpower and its minority shareholder TECT over the proposal to phase out the TECT cheques and turn TECT into a charitable trust.
Tauranga Energy Consumer Trust (TECT) chairman Bill Holland yesterday accused Trustpower of running a subversive campaign against the proposal to change the way dividends were paid to the Tauranga community.
He said in a statement that the TECT cheques were never designed to distort pricing in a competitive electricity market.
Trustpower's chief executive Vince Hawksworth said in a media release yesterday that its customers were suspicious that TECT was deliberately withholding information over the controversial proposal to ''cancel the TECT cheque''.
He said Trustpower had been inundated with thousands of public queries. ''The confusion and concern customers are expressing are of TECT's own making.''
Hawksworth said TECT needed to pull the plug on the process and ask the question: ''Do Trustpower customers actually want change''.
''TECT aren't telling people the real reasons for this irreversible change...people are worried because there are so many unanswered questions.''
Hawksworth said it was four days from the deadline for submissions and people still did not know basic information like when and where verbal submissions would be heard, when TECT would publish a final proposal, and when voting on the referendum would be held. ''There is no clarity around the independence and integrity of the vote process.''
''Trustpower customers are suspicious the Tauranga Energy Consumer Trust is deliberately withholding information over its controversial proposal to cancel the TECT cheque,'' Hawksworth said.
Holland said the trust was becoming increasingly alarmed at attempts by Trustpower to muddy the waters.
''We are worried that Trustpower's well-financed campaign is having an effect on the integrity of the consultation process,'' he said.
Holland accused Trustpower of running a ''subversive campaign'' against the proposal.
He said it included critical advertising in the media, holdings its own rival meetings, sending out scaremongering media releases and legal threats.
''These moves by Trustpower are causing confusion and concern among consumers.''
Holland accused Trustpower of spreading unfounded fear around the proposal, such as the suggestion that the trust be wound up so consumers could get a final payout of $15,000 each.
''Trustee could never agree to that concept because it makes no provision for future consumers. It is mischievous for Trustpower to suggest it as a valid option.''
Holland said the proposal looked after today's consumers with a substantial payout of $4300 over the next five years and it looked after future consumers by funding the community.
''The TECT cheque was never designed to distort pricing in a competitive electricity market. Much of the feedback we have received already makes the point that the value of the cheque consumers receive does not justify the higher electricity prices people pay to Trustpower.''
He said it would take time for TECT to review the 10,000 submissions it had received so far from consumers. Verbal submissions would be heard at times and places to be decided once the trust knew how many people wanted to be heard and where they lived.