22 August 2015, Lagos – The Nigeria Electricity Regulatory Commission has ordered the Abuja Electricity Distribution Company to pay over N50m to its various consumers in the Federal Capital Territory as refund for overbilling them despite erratic power supply to their homes and business premises.
The Chairman/Chief Executive Officer, NERC, Dr. Sam Amadi, stated this in his response to a query issued to his commission by the Senate on fixed charge, estimated billing and sundry issues.
Amadi, according to his response, a copy of which was obtained by our correspondent on Friday, explained that his agency monitored all complaints reported to the discos on monthly basis and carries out analysis on them.
He said, “The commission has recently penalised Abuja Electricity Distribution Company for overbilling its customers and ordered it to refund the overbilled amount and apologise to the customers for the wrongful estimation.
“Abuja Electricity Distribution Company has refunded about 32,000 customers so affected. The refund has ranged between 5,000and 15,000 per customer, adding up to over N50m.”
Amadi explained that the commission established a Forum Office made up of representatives of important stakeholders like the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria, Consumer Protection Council, Nigerian Society of Engineers and representatives of local Civil SocietyOrganisations.
He said the members elected their own chairman and carry out hearing complaints from consumers, stressing that their decisions if not appealed against, were enforced by the commission.
He said every disco had been mandated to establish functional Customer Complaints Units to receive and resolve all complaints from customers on electricity supply within its area of operation.
According to him, a timeline of 15 days has been specified in the regulation for the resolution of complaints by the electricity customer after which an appeal could be lodged at the Forum Office.
Amadi said, “The Forum Office represents the next level that the electricity customers can seek redress from the non-performance of Discos in resolving their complaints.
“Presently, the NERC has established at least one Forum Office in all the discos to act as an appellate body in resolving complaints from electricity customers not satisfactorily resolve by the Customer Complaints Units of the discos.”
He added that the commission had agreed with the Senate’s position on the need to eliminate the practice of bulk billing of residential customers and replace the practice with individual metering and billing.
He said, “ It is important to state that the commission had previously abolished bulk billing in its ruling on the VGC CASE NO:NERC/H/03/07 (copy attached). This case was brought by a customer against the VGC Estate Management and the Eko Electricity Distribution Company in 2008.
“The commission ruled in favour of the customer. The decision of the commission stipulated that the every customer is expected to be metered individually irrespective of the status of supply coming into the area and the class of billing should be on R2 or as appropriately determined by the disco.
“The commission has however provided a leeway for estimation in situations where residential metres are not provided to customers. This is provided in the Estimated Billing Methodology Regulation of the commission.
“In this instance, statistical meters installed at transformer sub stations are used to calculate the energy to be used as basis for estimating customers on the feeders.
“Communities who are placed on bulk billing should reject it and insist on individual metering. The commission is in the process of completing public consultation on a proposal to cap the amount an unmetered customer can pay until he or she is metered.
“The proposal will also commit distribution companies to strict deadline for metering of all its customers. In the interim, the Commission has abolished connection of new customers without meters.”
The NERC boss argued that the fixed charge that consumers pay in the Nigerian electricity market was not illegal or necessarily fraudulent.