Walter Ukaegbu, Abuja
The Consumer Protection Council (CPC), has appraised the interaction between the nation’s electricity distribution companies (DISCOs) and their consumers, declaring that arbitrary billing and group disconnection of electricity consumers without consideration for those paying their bills constitutes a gross abuse of consumer rights. The Director General of the Council, Babatunde Irukera, said these in Abuja, at a meeting with top management of Abuja Electricity Distribution Company (AEDC) led by its Managing Director, Engineer Ernest Mupwaya. Irukera noted that the vast majority of complaints in the sector centre on these two issues.
While expressing understanding on the challenges in the industry, the DG said “there is no excuse for how consumers are treated”.
He pointed out that “the key complaints that we receive are arbitrary, unsupported and unreasonable billing; people not being treated with dignity, while complaint resolution process is either lacking or unclear and there’s really no respect for people”.
He disclosed that consumers’ complaints have not been primarily about supply, but about billing for non-existent supply, stressing that “as a matter of fact, a vast majority of supply complaints are attributed to the fact that you are asking them to pay for something that was not supplied and the other significant reason is group disconnection”.
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 with regret that “what DISCOs are doing is connecting their balance sheets to receivables from consumers, but consumers are connecting what they owe to what they receive”.
Irukera, while charging the distribution companies to stop the arbitrary billing system, asserted that “connecting balance sheet to an opaque arbitrary metering system is the worst form of abuse, especially for an essential public utility”.
He also contended that 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.