Power company telemarketers 'abusing' elderly

"I didn't want to make a fuss."

LYN HUMPHREYS
Last updated 05:00 13/08/2014
Marjorie Harris
ANDY JACKSON/Fairfax NZ

POWER CRISIS: Marjorie Harris, 84, of New Plymouth, has been taken in by power company telemarketers. Granddaughter Kelli Sutton describes their actions as elder abuse.

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An 84-year-old pensioner living alone has been hit with big bills after being targeted by a series of telemarketers and persuaded to swap power companies.

Her family has called for power companies to stop targeting vulnerable customers and for checks and balances to be put in place.

In a year Marjorie Harris, 84, of New Plymouth has swapped from Nova, to Mercury, to Genesis, and back to Mercury.

Each change has been made as a result of being phoned by a telemarketer at her Strandon home.

But she has been upset to find that in one case she attracted an extra $100 on her bill and in another was required by Genesis pay a $150 penalty for breaking her contract.

"It all sounded good at the time," the superannuitant said. "But I couldn't follow what they were saying and I didn't want to make a fuss."

Kelli Sutton says she is angry that her grandmother was taken in by the slick talk from telemarketers who she believes have taken advantage of her in a form of elderly abuse.

When Sutton contacted Mercury on her grandmother's behalf to ask if they could put a hold on any further transfers, she was told this could not happen because she did not have permission.

Age Concern chief executive Robyn Scott, Wellington, said there were many similar cases.

A good way to deal with telemarketers was to ask them to put their offers in writing and post them, she said.

A Mercury Energy spokesperson confirmed Harris was a customer. All calls made to new customers over the age of 75 were reviewed through an administration process.

In the event of any concerns, there is a follow up with the customer to confirm their intention.

TELEMARKET CONTROLS

Email or ring the Electricity and Gas Complaints Commissioner scheme. Phone 0800 22 33 40. Get name removed from most calling lists by registering with the NZ Marketing Association. Further advice online at: consumer.org.nz/articles/telemarketing#article-what-can-you-do

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