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TLC confirms move to retail billing

6 October 2020

From late next year The Lines Company (TLC) will no longer send bills direct to customers.

Instead, energy users across the King Country and Central Plateau will receive just one bill from an electricity retailer of their choice, combining both lines and energy charges as they would anywhere else in New Zealand.

TLC chief executive Sean Horgan said the decision to move to retail billing was recently confirmed by TLC’s Board after a “comprehensive review of all options and potential issues.”

“This decision was not taken lightly because we needed to thoroughly understand the implications for customers, retailers, staff and our wider community.  But customer feedback is clear that the vast majority of people would prefer to receive one energy bill,” Horgan said.

“Our focus now is on changing our systems internally and working alongside electricity retailers to ensure the change is as seamless as possible and that customers still have access to TLC data.”

The change, however, won’t affect TLC’s largest industrial customers who will still receive a separate lines bill – a practice that is consistent throughout the New Zealand energy industry.

Horgan confirmed the decision could impact a small number of jobs at TLC.

“At this stage, we will be doing everything possible to ensure local people don’t lose jobs as a result of this change to one bill.  We are looking closely at what other opportunities this might present and our staff will continue to be part of that conversation.”

“The core services that we provide to customers will not change” Horgan says, “people are still going to see our crews working on and around the power lines.”

In the meantime, no action is required from customers at this stage, he said.

“We’re working closely with existing retail providers to ensure that everything runs smoothly for our customers.  We’ll keep our customers informed over the coming year as the project rolls out.”

TLC chair Mark Darrow said the decision to move to one bill was part TLC’s strong focus on improving customer experience and the service it offered.

“Customers have told us that receiving two bills is confusing and there is a perception that people are paying twice.  Following the rest of the industry’s single bill approach makes more sense for our customers.”

“Many, if not all retailers also offer online apps and other tools that enable people to manage their usage and bills – we see that as a real bonus for customers on our network.”

“Even though our charges will be included within the energy retailer invoice, we will maintain full transparency of Time of Use lines charges from TLC for each customer and ensure that information is easily accessible, including through a web portal.”

“There are also a number of other TLC initiatives underway that will ensure we continue to maximise our value to customers and to our wider community,” Darrow said.  “They include an increased investment in the lines assets to further improve safety and resilience, expansion of our vulnerable and medically dependent customer programme and targeting to insulate 500 homes by continuing to support Maru Energy Trust” said Darrow.

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