Angry King Country power customer calls for royal commission into pricing nationwide

Source: 1News

An opponent of hefty power prices in the central North Island is calling for a royal commission into pricing by lines companies throughout New Zealand.

Graham Deadman and other King Country residents say they're being held to ransom by The Lines Company (TLC) which has the monopoly in the region.

Seven Sharp reported residents are having to pay a hefty monthly line service fee which often outweighs the cost of the actual electricity used.

Mr Deadman took a petition to Parliament in 2014, and while nothing changed then, he believes politicians didn't understand the complex pricing system in the King Country.

"The only one that said anything at the time was Judith Collins. And she said 'I'd hate to be living in that area and cooking a roast.' That's her exact words that she said. And that was all that was said from the National Party," Mr Deadman said.

"I think there should be a royal commission on pricing with the lines companies throughout New Zealand."

TLC, which owns the lines, uses load controlling to regulate power and record customers' usage, and this usually happens when people need power the most.

TLC calculates the bill, using a highly unusual, and controversial, formula. The fixed monthly charge is based on the six highest readings from the previous year, not on a percentage of the actual power consumed. 

It means if a resident cranks up the power on a particularly cold week it will hurt the customer of their bill for the following year.

One of the 24,000 customers forced to pay the lines charge, Theresa Stevens, went outside on a miserable day to check her meter and found, "it's loading so we can't do breakfast".

"At the moment it's only the lights and I don't use the stove, I don't use the jug," the disgruntled TLC customer said. 

TLC said in a statement: "We've all been dealt a tough hand. Our network is more expensive to maintain than networks with high urban population. It has fewer people to share the cost, people who are less able to afford it."