If ever there was evidence needed that trading conditions are getting tougher, especially for general retailers and service industries who deal with the general public, the latest figures out of Queensland showing home power disconnections are manifold.
Community service organisations have new official figures showing Queensland electricity disconnections for non payment have risen 37 percent over the past year - with pensioners and concession card holders making up almost 18 percent of those disconnected.
"That's a total of 24,598 residential customers disconnected in the past year for non-payment," according to Queensland Council of Social Service (QCOSS) president Karyn Walsh.
"And 6 percent of those, or 1466 people, had their electricity cut off for more than a week before it was reconnected in the same name."
Ms Walsh linked the increased disconnections to the spiraling cost of essentials. Over the past five years, the cost of essentials has risen well above the consumer price index of 19 percent: electricity (up by 63%), public transport (up by 48%), insurance (up by 40%), rent (up by 35%) and food (up by 23%).
"But there are other issues that contribute," Ms Walsh said. "There is not enough support available and a lack of knowledge of the support that does exist.
"We also have to ask ourselves whether the electricity retailers are doing enough to comply with their obligations to identify people experiencing hardship early and proactively assist them. By July next year they will be subject to far more stringent national requirements and they should already be working towards meeting these standards.
"People are entitled to expect retailers to provide assistance through hardship programs or payment plans. Those in difficulty should contact their electricity retailer early and not wait for disconnection," said Ms Walsh.
"These figures are an indication that the current concessions framework isn't working well enough. While a complete review of the framework should be a long-term goal there are steps that can be taken immediately - like changing the current 'pensioner' concessions to ‘low-income' concessions that will apply to pensioners and all health care card holders. This is done in other states and is a far more equitable system."
Full details of the disconnections are available at www.qca.org.au