- The Courier-Mail
- October 02, 2013
THE number of small businesses having their power cut off and disputing accounts has surged as companies struggle to pay their bills.
Latest figures from the Queensland Competition Authority show that small business disconnections around the state rose by 28 per cent over the past year to 1985.
And company complaints over bills and accounts virtually doubled – up from 1481 in 2011-12 to 2903 last year.
The number of homes which had their electricity turned off was down 19 per cent over the same period to 19,306.
Chamber of Commerce and Industry Queensland general manager advocacy Nick Behrens said the statistics provided a stark insight into the battle facing small business in the Sunshine State.
“It paints a clear and accurate picture of a trading environment which has been really challenging,” he said.
“It’s very sad to see the number of businesses which have silently closed their doors.”
Mr Behrens said that, overall, he could not fault electricity providers for their response in trying to help companies explore payments options and terms. “But they are not so good at assisting businesses to reduce their energy usage.”
However, the real problem rested with banks. “There is a general feeling among the small business community in Queensland that the banks have not been as accommodating – in fact that they have been ruthless – in getting these (struggling) businesses off their books.
“If a business cannot re-finance, it is difficult for it to pay its bill,” he said.
While total residential disconnections fell over the past year, the most recent figures – for the three months to June this year – show that the number of pensioners and concession card-holders cut off is rising sharply again.
Power was switched off to 1271 pensioners – a 39 per cent jump on the previous quarter.
Meanwhile, Ergon Energy’s annual report, released yesterday, reveals solar panel owners received $75 million in feed-in tariff payments last year – an amount recovered from power consumers who don’t have them.
The Sunday Mail reported that the burden to traditional power users in the Energex area from subsiding solar owners was $167 million.
Ergon, which services consumers outside southeast Queensland, made a net profit of $319.8 million last year, down from $321.6 million.
The Energex profit was up 28 per cent to $361.4 million.