*Pushes for aggressive metering
29 November 2018, Sweetcrude, Lagos — The Consumer Protection Council, CPC has condemned arbitrary billing by the electricity distribution companies, DISCOs, urging them to embark on an aggressive metering system to curb estimated billings.
Mr. Babatunde Irukere, the Director General of CPC gave the advised in a statement on Wednesday.
Irukere, while expressing understanding about challenges in the industry, said DisCos have no “excuse” for maltreating customers, adding that “arbitrary billing” formed a larger part of complaints received from electricity consumers.
“There is no excuse for how consumers are treated. The key complaints that we receive are arbitrary, unsupported and unreasonable billing”.
“People not being treated with dignity, the complaint resolution process is either lacking or unclear and there’s really no respect for people”.
The DG said consumers’ complaints have not been primarily about supply, “but about billing for non-existent supply”, adding that “as a matter of fact, a vast majority of supply complaints are attributed to the fact that you (DISCOs) are asking them to pay for something that was not supplied and the other significant reason is group disconnection”.
He advised that holding town hall meetings is necessary to engage with electricity consumers directly and fashion out ways to listen and address their complaints with regards to electricity in a civilised and matured manner.
He frowned at group disconnection of consumers’ electricity without consideration for those paying their constituted an abuse of consumer rights, adding that power continues to be the greatest and current challenge in the country.
He acknowledged that power is a national challenge, and all value chain in the sector need to come together to address the power sector challenges, which remains the best option.
According to him, DISCOs have gotten to a point where no one takes their bills seriously anymore because they are considered outrageous.
“I think the pressure on metering will not be so bad if the estimated billing was more transparent and reasonable” he noted.
Irukere charged the Discos to engage in aggrieve metering of consumers to address issues of estimated billing.
“The group disconnection usually adopted by distribution companies because of the debts owed by some members of the affected groups, unfortunately, disregards and undermines the rights of other consumers in the groups who did not owe.
“You see people who are complaining about supply because they, as individuals, have been responsible, but the DISCOs have painted them with a broad stroke and disconnected even the responsible people.
“As a lawyer, our approach to criminal work, even legal work, has always been that let the guilty man go free instead of punishing the innocent man.
“For me, there’s something fundamentally, absolutely irreparable and inexcusably wrong with penalizing people because of the conduct of others. It is just not excusable.
“The government should never do that to its people. But if the government does it as a state actor, as inexcusable as it is, it might even be permissible,’’ he added.
Irukere said that the fundamental principle of fairness required that people should pay for what they used, adding that estimated billing is not a Nigerian phenomenon but Nigerians condemn arbitrary billing,
“There should be cost reflective billing on consumption, consumers have the right to insist to pay for what they used.
“Estimated billing should be fair and not arbitrary, the group disconnection is unfair, the community should not be held responsively for equipment”.
“Transformer should not be a community effort, however, it is expected that DISCO are transparent, sensitivity and responsiveness as a service provider
“The three will not increase megawatts but reduced consumer’s frustrations. We ensure that consumers are rightfully billed,” he added.