Meridian Energy don't seem to be heeding the call to be more 'socially responsible' as the Government says all power companies must be.

Take the case of Bruce.

Bruce is on a low income and more often than not, he cannot pay the electricity bill on time - in fact, he often can't find all the cash for the skyrocketing power bill until he receives the letter threatening to cut him off.

Says Bruce: 'If you don't pay the first bill, then you receive a second letter threatening further action. Then about ten days after that you receive the third letter which says they will be disconnecting you unless the bill is paid within five working days. What these fat cats at Meridian don't seem to understand is that people like me do pay the bills in the end, it just takes us longer because we are on low incomes. But Meridian have no sympathy with this - they just hit you with the threatening letters regardless.'

What also annoys Bruce is that Meridian slap a five dollar penalty charge on the bill. 'That charge comes with the second letter. So what they are doing is adding more financial stress and burden on to people and families on low incomes. If I haven't got the money to pay, I haven't got to money -it's as simple as that. Adding a further five dollar penalty charge on to the bill doesn't solve anything.'

But, for people like Bruce, it gets worse.

Bruce recently moved into a smaller flat.

He was up to date with his power account. However when he came to get his power switched on at his new place he was informed he would have to pay Meridian a $150 bond.

'According to Meridian I am a financial risk to them,' says Bruce. 'When I pointed out that I had paid all my accounts the call centre woman told me they were charging me a bond because of what she described as my 'erratic payment record.' So basically because I don't pay the power bill when Meridian would like me to they penalised me a further $150. Remember we are talking about a power company that makes vast profits and whose CEO, Keith Turner, is on a salary close to $400,000 a year.'

Not surprisingly Bruce doesn't have a high opinion of Meridian. 'They are a rogue corporate who think they can do what they like, when they like. Any semblance of a public service ethos went out the window when they divided up the ECNZ. And what is this government doing about it. Sweet fuck all.'

Meridian Energy made an after-tax profit of $104.5 million for the half year ending 31 December 2006.


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