Falole Muliaga, a 45-year old Samoan woman, and her son Ietitia were in their Auckland home when a man arrived from Mercury Energy to disconnect their power because of payment arrears. Mrs Muliaga had recently been released from hospital and used an oxygen machine which depended on electricity. The contractor explained that he had disconnected the power on instruction from Mercury Energy, as the account was NZ$168.40 in arrears. The contractor could see the plastic tubes coming from Mrs Muliaga’s nose, but he did not know what they were for and did not feel it was his business to ask. Mrs Muliaga, who became increasingly distressed and had difficulty breathing, collapsed and died despite the efforts of her family and ambulance staff. The following day news reports began to surface in New Zealand and were soon picked up by international news outlets. Although Mercury Energy initially insisted it had done nothing wrong, it softened its stance as further details of the case were revealed.
This case study examines Mercury Energy's immediate and subsequent responses to the event and considers whether the company's voluntary guidelines for dealing with low-income consumers aligned with its requirement to show corporate social responsibility. It has a number of teaching uses, including corporate social responsibility, regulatory techniques, and operational strategy.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.