Meridian discards 'prompt payment discounts' for fairer treatment of struggling Kiwis

One of New Zealand's major power companies has replaced its so-called prompt payment discounts, saying they simply penalise people who struggle to pay their bills.

This move from Meridian Energy comes just days after a Government investigation into electricity prices, which questioned the fairness of the practice.

Budgeting advisers deal with the fallout from steep energy prices on a daily basis.

"We see many people who are constantly being disconnected who find power to be a very significant part of their spending," says Tim Bennett, chief executive of National Building Financial Capability Charity Trust.

This week, a government investigation found those who can't afford to pay their bills on time are being charged up to 26 per cent more for their power.

That's because power companies offer so-called "prompt payment discounts," which look like savings but are really just penalties for those who pay late.

Meridian Energy has now officially pulled the plug on the practice. 

"We're getting rid of the prompt payment discount because it's fundamentally unfair, especially to customers who struggle to pay their bills," says chief executive Neal Barclay.

The move has been welcomed by Energy Minister Megan Woods.

"I'm absolutely thrilled by the leadership that Meridian's showing today, that they've listened to what I think are really compelling arguments - that essentially we had a penalty for those who struggle to pay their power bills the most."

"It's great, I think really they were misleading and they were late payment penalty fees most impacting low income Kiwis and I urge other retailers to do it as well," says Green MP Gareth Hughes. 

"One company at least has seen sense and is going to treat people fairly regardless of how much income they've got," added Mr Bennett.

The Meridian logo Source: 1 NEWS

Other major power companies were contacted by 1 NEWS to see if they'd follow suit.

While Genesis, Contact and Mercury have no plans to ditch their prompt payment discounts, Trustpower is considering it.

Smaller retailers like Pulse Energy, who have already ditched the practice, call the payments deceptive and want them gone for good.

Meridian is set to replace the discount scheme with credits of equal value for all customers and says no one will be worse off. 

"The total cost to us is $5 million so that's money back into those customers' pockets," says Mr Barclay.

The government is now considering further actions to bring prices down. 

The move comes just days after government investigation into electricity prices questioned the fairness of the practice. Source: 1 NEWS



1 NEWS political reporter Katie Bradford says recent scandals 'not a good look for the Government'

Recent scandals have "not been a good look for the Government" according to 1 NEWS political reporter Katie Bradford.

After news came out today that Derek Handley's offer of chief technology officer position has been retracted by the Government, Bradford says there may be more to come.

"The Government is back to the drawing board and there may still be more to come, as Clare Curran said earlier this week she may still have personal emails on her Gmail account, so this is not necessarily over yet."

It has been the drawn-out nature of the Clare Curran saga which has hurt the Government most, Bradford says.

"This has been going on for weeks now, and every week there has been a new development with this, it's not a good look for the Government."

Coupled with other issues, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has had a rough week in politics.

"This week has also seen questions around the stability of the coalition Government and that relationship with NZ First.

"The prime minister goes into this weekend having cancelled her media appearances on some big political TV shows including TVNZ1’s Q+A.

"She says that is because of a diary scheduling era, but on Sunday she is making a big speech on her Government’s first year," Bradford says.

When asked if she was not appearing due to a tough few weeks, Ms Ardern said "absolutely not". Source: 1 NEWS

When asked if she was not appearing due to a tough few weeks, which saw Clare Curran resign from her Ministerial positions and MP Meka Whaitiri stand down while an investigation is pending, Ms Ardern said "absolutely not".

"There's no question I remain very much available for comment on any issue of the day."

From the Clare Curran saga to coalition rifts, the pressure is on Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern. Source: 1 NEWS

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Elderly woman in critical condition after being run over by reversing car in Palmerston North

An elderly woman is in a critical condition after being run over by a reversing car in Palmerston North this morning.

Police say she was run over by a car reversing from a driveway on Grey St, Palmerston North at 11am.

She is currently in a critical condition at Palmerston North Hospital.

Police say members of the public and the driver of the car assisted the woman at the scene.

Source: istock.com

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PM pulls out of weekend media appearances due to 'diary issue'

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has pulled out of two weekend media appearances due to a "diary issue". 

Ms Ardern's appearances on TVNZ's Q+A and Newshub Nation were cancelled this weekend. 

"There's been a bit of a diary issue in my team. That's something they've worked through.

When asked if she was not appearing due to a tough few weeks, which saw Clare Curran resign from her Ministerial positions and MP Meka Whitiri stand down while an investigation is pending, Ms Ardern said "absolutely not". 

"There's no question I remain very much available for comment on any issue of the day."

When asked if she was not appearing due to a tough few weeks, Ms Ardern said "absolutely not". Source: 1 NEWS


$3m spent by Government on two education summits

The Government spent $3 million on two education summits, with 1400 people attending the events to discuss making the NZ "education system fit for the future and for the needs of all", said Education Minister Chris Hipkins. 

A paper was released today on the findings of the summits, which included the identification of values in the education system, finding a shared vision and to enable the Minister to be provided with "well-founded and challenging reccommendations" through a broad engagement approach. 

The Tomorrow's Schools Review, the Early Learning Strategic Plan and the NCEA Review were "drawing on those ideas and suggestions to inform their work on the changes". 

"The summits put special emphasis on inviting the voices and communities not usually heard in the education debate, ensuring they could attend. The events were specifically designed for a different style of engagement which enabled an open-ended and genuine exchange of ideas," Mr Hipkins said. 

The two summits were held in May, with about 1400 people in total attending. The Christchurch summit cost $1.41m and Auckland cost $1.26m, with $440,000 spent to design and develop the summits. 

It comes after the Government faced criticism over the cost of its Justice Summit held last month, aimed at overhauling the country's prison system, which cost $1.5 million - more than twice the amount budgeted.

The summit aimed at overhauling what Labour says is a "broken" system blew is budget. Source: 1 NEWS

National's education spokesperson Nikki Kaye told 1 NEWS that "most New Zealanders would be very supportive of ensuring the education sector are involved in policy discussions about the future of our education system".

"However, this needs to be done in a fiscally responsible way and I am concerned that there are anywhere between 13 to 20 reviews at the moment in education and the summits have been expensive.

"I think the Minister needs to demonstrate in the future that he can provide some efficiencies in the way that we are having these conversations, because quite rightly there will be teachers and principals out there saying that should be spent on front line education rather than just on consultation."

Speaking on TVNZ 1’s Q+A, Chris Hipkins said teachers also need to committ to the process.
Source: 1 NEWS