Episode 13: June 2 | FAIR GO | TV ONE | tvnz.co.nz [an error occurred while processing this directive]
Episode 13: June 2
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Genesis gas charges

Reporter: Hannah Wallis

We've been swamped with on-going complaints about Genesis Energy's policy of charging a daily gas line charge - averaging 50-odd cents a day - whether people are using gas or not.

Dozens of complaints have arrived, from all round the North Island - some already signed up for electricity with Genesis, but not wanting, or asking for gas, found they were being charged for it.

Others weren't even signed up with Genesis for electricity, and had still been billed for a daily gas line charge. And others had been told they could only get out of the charge if they had the meter removed - cost - around $135.

Genesis had said people didn't have to pay if they hadn't used gas for a year of more, or if they'd just moved into new premises.

Fair Go says in those cases you need to let Genesis know immediately  ( we strongly suggest putting it in writing)  or you'll continue to be billed until you do. If you've actually already been paying the line charge - or have already paid the disconnection charge - but think you qualify for not having to pay - Fair Go suggests you asks for a refund.

We asked Consumers' Institute boss David Russell what he thought of the policy - he said it's outrageous to bill people for the charge if they'd made it clear they didn't want gas, and had not used it.

If you have used gas, though, David Russell says that's the same as entering into a contract, and means you have to abide by all the rules and conditions of that contract, which you can find out about on the Genesis website.

And if you have used gas, then you are bound to pay the disconnection charge, and the daily gas line charge, even if you only use gas 4-5 months a year.

Genesis tell us there is a choice for such customers, to pay either a lower daily rate and high actual usage charge, or higher overall daily rate if you use a lot of gas.

Complainants to Fair Go say they were not properly informed, at the time of entering an electricity contract, that they will incur gas line charges unless - and until - they inform Genesis they don't want gas (and want it disconnected).

Fair Go asks whether, in these cases, Genesis can be said to have a valid contract with these people for gas - and if they don't have a valid contract, says David Russell, Genesis could be acting illegally by asking them to pay anything at all.

Genesis denies this, saying they do fully inform their customers about the gas charges, and about their options for opting out of the charges.

David Russell says there is definitely no contract where  people have moved into a house, they've got electricity supply with another company, and they don't want to use the gas. He suggests in such a case Genesis may be  breaching the Unsolicited Goods and Services Act by sending what amounts to a pro-forma invoice - claiming something that they have no right to claim and they therefore could be breaking the law.

We put both those scenarios - the Genesis electricity customer who doesn't want gas, and the non-Genesis customer who doesn't want gas  - to Energy Minister Pete Hodgson. He agrees with David Russell, that they should not be charged the daily line charge.

Pete Hodgson also believes Genesis doesn't have to fully remove the meter - he says they should just padlock it, so the next householder has the choice of using the gas.

We also checked with the Commerce Commission - they agree that if no contract exists, there's no legal basis for charging people for either the line charges or the disconnection.

They're also keen to hear from people who feel they've had raw deal from Genesis.

Finally, a word from the Electricity Complaints Commission - they're not dealing with gas grizzles at the moment but next year - there'll be a separate gas complaints commission. Meantime, they told us that under current electricity rules, Genesis cannot disconnect your electricity supply if you are contesting these gas supply charges - long as the electric's paid up, of course, and you must let Genesis know (again in writing) that you are contesting the charges.

They say where a person has used gas, then that contract is between the gas company and the person - not the house. So when that person cancels the contract - that's it - the new occupant does not have a contract with Genesis unless they choose to form one.

In response, Genesis say, first up, that unless the meter is completely removed, there are still on-going costs in keeping the gas lines "alive", and those costs will continue to be passed on to the householder.  

They confirm that meter removal will be free of charge if you haven't used any gas for a year or more - or if you've recently moved into a new house and don't want gas.

Genesis say they do explain to new electricity customers that they can opt out of gas supply.

Fair Go still doesn't think this policy is acceptable - what about, for instance, tenants who can't get landlords to agree to the meter removal? So - we still want to hear from you Genesis customers - we'll be looking into this one again.

Subaru saga

Reporter: Jacquie Hudson

Twenty-one year old Mathew Hopkins is gutted. He's made a major mistake. He doesn't have car insurance. That's stupid. But we took up Mathew's battle because we think he had a legitimate complaint. We reckon if your car gets smashed to pieces when it's at the garage-they pay, not you.

No matter what. See what you think.

The twenty-one year old should be driving around in his 1994 Subaru Impreza WRX complete with mags, lowered suspension, tinted windows and after market stereo. Instead he's driving around in a loan car from his mechanic because Matthew's mechanic crashed his 1994 Subaru WRX.

As a builder's apprentice Matthew hammered a lot of nails to fork out $16 000 for the Subaru, so he made sure his car was serviced regularly. Matthew dropped his car off to the Sharrock Subaru Service Centre in New Plymouth in early February this year for Kim Hodge, the mechanic, to do a bit of fine tuning. It was a simple job but Matthew was never to see his car in one piece again.

Kim Hodge was test driving Matthew's Subaru in a 100km area just outside of New Plymouth when he came round a corner and crashed into a 4 wheeler farm-bike.

Over 3 months later Matt's got a loan car but that's all. His mechanic's insurer, NZI says it's not their clients fault so no payout. But remember, Matthew had no insurance.

Matthew says " They're fighting over who's responsibility it is. I know it's not mine. I want my car back fixed."

Matthew's car's now in storage with $13 000 worth of damage or it could cost more to fix than it's worth. His mechanic, Kim Hodge says the accident wasn't his fault although he didn't know at the time of the accident that his public liability insurance with NZI wouldn't be paid out. The mechanic says that far from being his fault he had to swerve to avoid killing the driver of the 4 wheeler farm-bike.

To Fair Go's surprise, for a public liability insurance policy to pay out there must be fault on the part of the policy holder. But there is some good news. Although there was some issue over who was liable for the accident, Lumley General, the insurer of the farm-bike, have said they will come to the party and pay out.

Our major tip for this story is first: make sure you're insured. . So if there's any problems over liability with your mechanic at least your insurer should pay out on the car straight away, and then chase the liable party on your behalf.

And second: remember what a public liability policy does and doesn't cover.

Fair Go has talked to Matthew and made him assure us he'll insure his new car. We'll be ringing Matthew back for his policy number to make sure.

Where's Who's Who

Reporter: Simon Mercep

Once again, Fair Go went into bat for customers of publisher Alister Taylor. Taylor appeared on Fair Go in 2000 and twice in 2001, because of complaints over his Who's Who publications.

Customers said they were kept waiting months and years for books to be delivered. They also said they waited a long time for refunds. Alister Taylor told Fair Go in July 2001 that he would no longer ask for money in advance. He said he would publish the books, and customers would pay on receipt.

But since then Fair Go had been approached by customers who did pay up front, after Alister Taylor made that undertaking to Fair Go. People who ordered "Honoured By Queen and Country 1952 - 2002", and "New Zealand Who's Who in the Visual and Fine Arts, Architecture, Craft & Design" were given an option to pay in advance, for a discount.

Artist Sam Walker said she wanted to take advantage of the 40 dollar discount.

Artist Melanie Drewery said paying in advance was the only way to ensure that photographs were included, which she thought was essential in an art book. Retired police superintendent Gordon Knight said Alister Taylor had his money for about two years. He hoped it was kept in trust.

These customers didn't accept that the delays were acceptable. Melanie Drewery said she'd been told to expect the book late in 2002. She said she was then told it was finished in August 2003. It had still not arrived. She believed the problems had tarnished Alister Taylor's reputation as a publisher.

Gordon Knight had been advised in writing that the book would be published in December 2002. The date was firm and there would be no delays. Previous problems with delays had been addressed.

Gordon Knight said he'd heard nothing from Alister Taylor since August 2003.

Sam Walker said she only got a $145 refund after telling Alister Taylor that she'd approached Fair Go.

Alister Taylor told Fair Go that he apologised for the delays. He said there had been a log jam and he admitted responsibility for that. Outstanding books would be published this year.

He said customers did not have to pay in advance, and that the current books were announced prior to the undertaking given to Fair Go in July 2001. He said it was the current policy not to accept money in advance. Alister Taylor said the money paid up front went towards the high production costs, and towards paying the printers in advance.

He said the complaints received by Fair Go were small compared to the total number of orders.

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