Electricity bills and medically dependent consumers 

Power companies must have arrangements in place to reduce the number of avoidable disconnections and ensure medically dependent customers get access to information that can help them manage their electricity costs.

What is a medically dependent consumer of electricity?

A medically dependent consumer is a person who is dependent on mains electricity for critical medical support, and for whom loss of electricity may result in loss of life or serious harm.

For example, if you need to use a ventilator at home which is plugged in at the wall – or if you need to use a microwave oven at home to heat fluids for renal dialysis – then you would qualify as a medically dependent consumer.

If this isn’t you, but you are on a low income then you may qualify as a Vulnerable Consumer.

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What difference will it make if I tell my power company I’m a medically dependent consumer?

If you get into financial difficulties and can't pay your power bill, your electricity provider won't disconnect you if they know you are medically dependent on your power supply.

Instead, they'll discuss your options with you, e.g. pricing and payment plans, advise you of agencies which can help you with budgeting or other advice and/or refer you to Work and Income (with your consent) for financial assistance.  

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What do I need to do if I think I’m a medically dependent consumer?

You need to let your electricity provider know as soon as possible.

If you believe you are medically dependent, you can get a Notice of Potential Medically Dependent Consumer Status from your GP, hospital or District Health Board. Show your electricity provider the Notice (or send them a copy, if they’ll accept one). Keep it safe in case you change providers.

You should let your power company know if you think you might not be able to pay your power bill, so that they can discuss your options with you.

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Can they still disconnect my power if I can't pay my power bill?

If you (or someone who lives with you) are medically dependent, the power company should not disconnect your power supply. If you are disconnected, get in touch with the power supplier as soon as possible so they can reconnect your power supply.

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My power company doesn’t accept that I qualify as a medically dependent consumer. What should I do?

You normally need to provide your power company with a Notice of Potential Medically-Dependent Consumer if you want them to recognise that you are a medically dependent consumer.
If they won’t accept your request despite receiving the notice you could make a formal complaint in writing.

If this does not help resolve the issue, you can escalate your complaint to Utilities Disputes Ltd (formerly known as the Electricity and Gas Complaints Commissioner).