Speech to Member Forum for Electricity and Gas Complaints Commissioner Scheme DVD Launch

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen.  Thank you for inviting me to speak to you today and thank you,  Electricity and Gas Complaints Commissioner Judi Jones, for your introduction.

I’m sure many of you are aware that this is my first speaking engagement since I became the Minister of Consumer Affairs, and I’m delighted to be able to speak to so many representatives of the electricity and gas industry. 

Before I go any further, I would like to assure you that I’m eager to continue making it easier for businesses and consumers to deal confidently in a fair marketplace.

The Electricity Industry Bill is a part of this, and will bring many changes for your industry.  For example: responsibility for the compulsory complaints scheme was previously held by the Electricity Commission and the Gas Industry Company.  Under the Bill, this responsibility will pass to me as Minister of Consumer Affairs.

The compulsory complaints scheme has gone from strength to strength in the almost nine years since its inception and is now the approved complaint resolution scheme for electricity and gas complaints.

This means consumers will continue to have access to the information they need to make informed decisions, and know that there are suitable remedies available if things go wrong. 

Consumer confidence is vital to the success of markets.  Part of ensuring that confidence is making sure consumers have the ability to make a complaint to a free, independent complaints scheme.

Doing so is an important part of ensuring our markets and laws are effective – after all, an inability to resolve complaints creates an unfair market that disadvantages consumers and honest businesses.

This is why I am so pleased that the industry has been so supportive of the scheme.  Industry self-regulation – by businesses like yours taking ownership of a problem and providing members with advice on compliance – can always improve on legislation.  The fact is that industry can be more responsive than regulation can, and can ensure that new issues are dealt with faster and more efficiently.

It’s also important for people to be able to make a complaint when aggrieved, and for those complaints to be taken seriously.  I hope the scheme will continue to improve, and will soon be able to deal with cases of higher value.  This will save court costs for both parties.

I would also like to take this opportunity to thank you for the submissions you have made regarding the Ministry of Consumers Affairs’ review of consumer legislation.  We need principles-based legislation to cover, what is essentially, a simple transaction between a buyer and a seller, and that is what ‘One Law’ is all about.

I also want to make it easy for consumers to deal with a complaint.  It can be difficult to negotiate the host of complaints and disputes tribunals and ombudsmen that currently exists, which is why the Ministry is also working on ‘One Door’ – a single portal through which consumers can obtain advice on where to take their problem.

By working together, industry and Government can create a fair marketplace that respects consumer choices.  The commitment from everyone in this room to the EGCC Scheme helps to achieve that goal for the electricity and gas industry.

Thank you again for inviting me to be a part of your day.  I look forward to talking to some of you at lunch, and working with you in the future.