We at the Power Panda have blogged earlier about the madness of medically dependent customers.
To recap - The Power Companies in response to political pressure decided to implement systems to ensure that no person could ever have their power cut off if they could possibly be dependent upon electricity for their health. In other words they decided to assume customers needed electricity to live and act according.
With advanced meters as we mentioned yesterday the power companies can turn the power on and off at the property remotely with an advanced meter. With standard meters it requires a contractor to go out to the property to disconnect. Now when the disconnection is for non payment this can be quite an advantage. Contractors are often abused and/or threatened. Additionally since the unfortunate incident of Folole Muliaga contractors are often reticent to turn the power off (more on this point another day).
So you can see why a Power Company might want to turn the power off remotely. What large sections of a prominent Power Company were unaware of (until July) is as follows:
The credit team decided that it could pose a hazard to some customers if this were done. They decided that in order to prevent the Folole Muliaga incident from happening again if a customer was due to be disconnected for non payment and the customer had not contacted the power company within the past 21 days they would send a contractor to the site to knock on the door of the customer and inquire if the customer was aware of this, and to ensure that the customer was not medically dependent.
Seeing as in most cases customers do not contact the power company with their overdue bills the advanced meter disconnections actually cost this power company more than standard disconnections.
However what happened is that customers who told the contractor "I'll pay the bill" automatically 'looped' within the system. In short what it meant was that the disconnection would be rescheduled. This meant that the account would have no further action for a week. After this an automated letter would be posted out to the customer reminding them of the overdue bill. The next week a text would be sent to the customer. So by the time the customer came up for disconnection again there was often 21 days or more, and if there was no contact....
the situation happened again.
Would you believe it?
We didn't at first. But it's just another example of the madness that is our electricity industry.
We'll touch on other aspects later, but hopefully this is a good enough explanation for now.