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Media release Embargo: 8 November 2009

Customer protections needed for NSW Smart Meter roll out St Vincent de Paul Society has called on the New South Wales (NSW) Government to provide greater protection for consumers facing higher prices in the emerging electricity market, as Smart Meters roll out into homes across the state. A St Vincent de Paul Society report ‘Customer Protections and Smart Meters – Issues for NSW’, released today, concluded that the meters and new pricing structures based on the time when electricity is used, means some people may pay more than twice the current price during peak periods. Gavin Dufty, Manager Policy and Research at St Vincent de Paul Society said these cost increases could detrimentally affect the community’s most disadvantaged people. “There will be winners and losers under the new system but currently there are inadequate consumer protection frameworks in place to ensure vulnerable households are protected,” he said. “Our analysis compared the current flat tariff system with the new time-based tariff system and found that during the afternoon – time deemed to be peak – electricity is by far and away the most expensive – indicatively double the current flat rate. “People who are at home during these peak periods could pay significantly more for their electricity. “For instance, stay-at-home single parents with children could pay anywhere from 11 to 14 per cent more for their overall power bills. This system could also increase the electricity bills of pensioners, the unemployed or sick. “Conversely, for consumers of electricity during the morning or evening, or on the weekend, the rate falls significantly. This means electricity bills for a family of four with parents in full time day jobs with teenage children, could save as much as 16 per cent on their annual bill.” Mr Dufty has led a state-by-state analysis of the potential impact of Smart Meters and says that in NSW the impact on low-income families could be substantial, and requires the State Government to ensure appropriate consumer protections are in place. It is envisaged that every NSW home will have Smart Meters by 2017. - Ends For more information: Lauren Coleman 03 9289 9555 or 0413 254 545