$367 m Contact pay-out shows cash comes before customers

Contact Energy’s decision to pay nearly 100% of its profit to its shareholders rather than drop retail electricity prices, invest in clean energy technology exports, or pay down debt, shows that it doesn’t put its customers first, the Green Party says.

“The National Government has let the electricity market get away on them, and consumers are suffering as a result,” Green Party energy spokesperson Gareth Hughes said.

“The Government’s only response is to tell people to shop around but the electricity market has complex structural issues that the Government should be fixing, not ignoring.

“A responsible electricity generator and retailer would recognise that many Kiwi households are doing it tough and would use its giant profits to cut power bills going into winter.

“Instead of doing the best thing for its customers, Contact is lining the pockets of its shareholders.

“Contact had $1.1 billion in debt as at December 2014. Most people would agree that if Contact isn’t willing to lower retail prices, it should be using its profits to pay down debt.

“What’s even more disappointing is that Contact passed up the opportunity to invest in exporting its geothermal clean technology expertise to the world, preferring to pay out cash to shareholders.

“Consumers expect profits to be invested back into energy companies, used to pay down debt, or put towards lower retail prices, not paid out to shareholders.

“The Government needs to act to ensure that the needs of consumers are front and centre in the electricity market,” Mr Hughes said.