Crazy Billings: CPC, DISCOs To Probe Consumers’ Complaints | Independent Newspapers Limited
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Crazy Billings: CPC, DISCOs To Probe Consumers’ Complaints

Posted: Sep 8, 2015 at 1:41 am   /   by   /   comments (0)

By Chibuzor Emejor, Abuja, Yaqoub Popoola, Ado-Ekiti

The Consumers Protection Council (CPC) has expressed worries over alleged cases of exploitative billing of consumers by electricity Distribution Companies (DISCOs) across the country.

Rising from a meeting in Abuja on Monday, the CPC and officials of the 11 DISCOs agreed on a panel to investigate various consumer complaints in the sector and report back in two weeks.

The council had taken up some of the nagging issues with the management of the DISCOs, with the Director General of CPC, Dupe Atoki, lamenting the increasing number of complaints of consumer abuse by the DISCOs.

She said that two years after the privatisation of electricity distribution by the Federal Government, consumers were still grappling with the same problems they encountered under the unbundled Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN).

She also said that the council was daily inundated with complaints of crazy billings, estimated billing for non-metered consumers, post-payment on functional meters, indiscriminate increase in electricity bills and non-supply of meters to consumers, several months after payment were made for them.

Other complaints the CPC has received from consumers, according to Atoki, include irregular disconnection, non-supply of infrastructure, collection of fixed charges even when there is no power supply, and lack of proper consumer complaints redress mechanism.

Responding, Executive Director, Regulatory and Stakeholders Relations of Abuja DISCO, Abimbola Odubiyi, admitted that there could be issues of over-billing, but such can only be as a result of mistakes and not intended to exploit consumers.

Atoki said the council reckoned with measures being put in place by the electricity industry regulators to ensure effective service delivery and that “no amount of work in the industry will be meaningful, if consumers continue to groan about the lack of value for money, as is currently the case.”

Consumers Groan

According to Atoki, “the expectation was that the unbundling of PHCN and the take-over of electricity distribution by private sector operators would dramatically alleviate the suffering of consumers in the sector.

“However, two years after the privatisation of electricity distribution in the country, consumers are still groaning over almost all the issues that existed in the old order.

“As a result, there has been an influx of consumer complaints to the CPC on sundry issues, which border on the abuse of the rights of Nigerian consumers.”

She said the investigation panel would engage with the DISCOs to evaluate relevant information regarding their operations in relation to the complaints.

According to her, the outcome of the investigation panel “would guide the CPC in reaching conclusions and recommendations that will translate into enduring solutions for all concerned.

“The investigation panel is also expected to ascertain from the respective DISCOs their level of compliance with relevant regulations, guidelines and directives issued by regulators in the electricity sector.

“This is in line with Section 12 of the CPC Act which provides for the prosecution of anyone who contravenes any enactment, whatsoever, for the protection of the consumers.”

Addressing newsmen after the meeting, Odubiyi denied any deliberate attempt by the electricity distribution companies to exploit the consumers.

He, however, argued that, there were no outrageous bills, but “mistake in the billing of consumers.”

On the installation of meters by DISCOs recently, he explained that the new meters installed were manufactured locally, assuring that they meet international standards.

He advised aggrieved consumers with such cases to come to their office to seek redress.

Protests In Ekiti

Meanwhile, youths in Ijan, in Gbonyin Local Government Area of Ekiti State, yesterday staged a protest to press for the restoration of electricity to the town by the Benin DISCOs.

The youths blocked the Ado-Ijan-Ikare highway, disrupting free flow of vehicles for several hours.

The rampaging youths, bearing placards with various inscriptions, said they were protesting a nine-month power outage in the community, following which businesses had been crippled and criminal activities rising in the town.

After enforcing the no movement order, the youths took their protests to the palace of the traditional ruler, Oba Samuel Fadahunsi, imploring him to intervene on the need to reconnect the town to the national grid.

An eyewitness told journalists that the youths had given the company a seven-day ultimatum to restore light.

They also called on Governor Ayodele Fayose to compel the company to backdown on the total

clampdown on towns and villages in Ekiti over debt incurred by some customers.

Similar protests had been staged in Ikere, Aramoko, Ifaki and some other towns in the state.

Oba Fadahunsi, had while receiving the youths pleaded for civility in carrying out the protest, describing the situation in the community as very embarrassing.

He said he had made efforts to compel the BEDC to see reason on why electricity should be restored, but all his pleas fell on deaf ears, saying the present position taken by the youths would be conveyed to government and the company.

In apparent reaction to the protest, the Speaker of the Ekiti State House of Assembly, Pastor Kola Oluwawole, has charged BEDC to ensure that communities in the state enjoy electricity that they pay for.

In a statement by his Special Assistant (Media), Stephen Gbadamosi, Oluwawole lamented the daily youths  protest over the lack of electricity, due to the lackadaisical attitude of the company.

He said: “It is sad that one can recall that not quite two months ago, the BEDC caused the people of Aramoko-Ekiti, including their monarch, to troop to the streets to protest absence of electricity in the town for months.

“It is a different thing, if people are not willing to pay for services rendered. But when they have fulfilled their obligations, BEDC should reciprocate with provision of the services paid for.

“Electricity is very germane to the development of any community. We, as a House of Assembly, will not close our eyes to any act aimed at short-changing our people.”

Oluwawole, however, appealed to the youths in the state to always be peaceful whenever they were protesting to get back denied rights, praising the Ijan-Ekiti youths for being peaceful during the protest.

“The state House of Assembly is with you any time you demand for your right. What we will frown at is taking laws into your own hands. I commend you for being peaceful in your protest.

“And I want to seize this opportunity to tell the people of Ijan-Ekiti that we will not close our eyes to their plights until the BEDC restores light to the community. Ditto other communities in the state that are suffering similar fate.

“I will also enjoin members of our society to pay for what they consume. It is when you have fulfilled your part of the bargaining that we can hold them to their own responsibilities too. It is my belief that something positive will be done about the electricity situation soon,” he said.

Also, Fajemilehin Thomas, who represents Gbonyin constituency in the House, charged the youths to be law-abiding in their protests, maintaining that the House would not be blind to issues affecting them.