Hard-up families to face power disconnections

Families which fail to pay their bills will lose their power connections if a new national consumer energy law is signed off by the states and territories next month.

However, a number of welfare and consumer groups have spoken out against the legislation, calling instead for greater assistance where households are struggling to make ends meet, the Australian reported.

"Anyone can end up in hardship even temporarily – you lose your job, you get sick, your partner dies," Tony Westmore, senior policy officer at the Australian Council of Social Service, told the newspaper.

"Rather than be disconnected, you should have some assistance to help you pay it off."

Under the draft legislation, which goes before the Ministerial Council on Energy in Melbourne on June 11th, "hardship customers" cannot be disconnected unless the power company has offered the customer two payment plans in the previous 12 months, and the customer has either rejected them or failed to pay instalments.

Meanwhile, in an interview with the Sydney Morning Herald recently, card market analyst Mike Ebstein, principal of MWE Consulting, suggested that mounting debt problems and economic uncertainty have prompted more Australians to compare debit cards in search of a safer spending option.

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