Increase – not decrease – compensation payouts to power blackout victims: SA-BEST

8 January 2019

Compensation for power customers impacted by prolonged outages needed to be increased – not decreased, according to SA-BEST.

SA-BEST MLC and Attorney General spokesperson, Connie Bonaros, said a decision announced today by the Essential Services Commission of SA to significantly cut compensation payouts to households and businesses hit by lengthy blackouts was a “slap in the face” – especially for struggling families already battling to pay household bills.

The changes are part of an automatic payment scheme that SA Power Networks will introduce from 1 July next year.

Connie said SA-BEST had long called for increased payments of compensation for people impacted by prolonged blackouts.

“SA-BEST intends introducing a Private Member’s Bill into Parliament next month to increase compensation payouts – not decrease them - to customers impacted by prolonged electricity outages,” Connie said.

“The maximum compensation amount of $300 for a customer who loses power for more than 60 hours in a year is absolutely deplorable – it isn’t nearly enough to compensate consumers for such a long period of inconvenience as well as their losses,” she said.  

“Tackling the increasing impost of power prices on families and businesses must be addressed as a priority but reducing compensation payments is not the answer to cheaper power bills.

“Our proposed Bill will ensure that the increased compensation costs payable by the distributor are not passed on to consumers.

“The Bill will also increase penalties for electricity distributors if the length of the outage is due to inadequate staffing and resourcing levels by the distributor.”

ESCOSA announced today that electricity customers will no longer receive “inconvenience” payments from SA Power Networks – the company that connects more than 890,000 SA customers to the national grid - for one-off outages of more than 12 hours.

Instead, compensation payments will be made to customers who experience blackouts for more than 20 hours over a financial year.

Under the new system, annual outages totalling 20-30 hours will attract a $100 payment, $150 for 30-60 hours, and $300 for more than 60 hours.

‘SA-BEST believes the new system is totally unfair and penalises the wrong people – consumers,” Connie said.

“There needs to be an improved system where consumers are compensated better for such a significant inconvenience,” she said.

“We will consult broadly with all relevant stakeholders and interest groups to get a better understanding of what they want to see.

“Until you’ve experienced a prolonged blackout – normally in the midst of a heatwave - you can’t begin to imagine the impost – both personally and financially.”

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