Written by Sarah NEGEDU

Metering: Discos to lose billing rights unless…

Henceforth, electricity distribution companies that fail to properly meter customers under the Credited Advance Payment for Metering Implementation, CAPMI scheme, may lose the right to bill or disconnect such customers.

The Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission, NERC, had directed that any customer who elected to procure meters under the CAPMI scheme must be metered within 60 days.

To effectively enforce the directive, NERC says it is partnering with the Consumer Protection Council, CPC, to ensure proper metering of customers as well as assure conducive environment for consumers and investors in the sector.

The new arrangement, the “Consumers’ Redress Legislation” also sets out to enable the agencies clampdown on DISCOs extorting their customers, under the pretence of procuring or repairing electrical installations.

The agreement would also enable both agencies to get rid of instances of disregard for customers’ rights and abuse of service trust by the DISCOs.

While signing the memorandum of understanding on behalf of the NERC, acting chairman of the commission, Dr. Anthony Akah, said NERC has already issued a non-tolerance notice to the DISCOs on wrongful estimates of consumers’ electricity consumptions, compelling customers to buy, install and repair such distribution equipment like transformers, poles, and wires.

He added that instances of unsafe electrical connections and safety practices would be covered in a new memo on the Consumers’ Redress Legislation.

He said the collaboration with the CPC is a step in the right direction, adding that the commission is determined to intensify the enforcement of consumer protection regulations on metering, billing and the complaints of arbitrary and estimated billing by customers.

According to Akah, NERC would ensure strict adherence to the meter roll-out plan by the Discos as spelt out in their performance agreements.

“There shall be concerted efforts aimed at greatly reducing the incidence of estimated billing and eventually eliminating it completely. The increasing incidence of vandalism of electricity infrastructure, stealing of electricity and hostility to operators are also issues we hope to jointly address.

“The commission has issued a non-tolerance statement on wrongful estimates, compelling customers to buy, install and repair transformers, and poles.”

He said the NERC/CPC partnership is aimed at promoting speedy redress of consumer-related issues in the delivery of electricity services.

On her part, the Director-General, CPC, Mrs. Dupe Atoki, said consumers should not be made to bear the brunt of non-metering for so long even after making payment.

“Consumers who are paying for services that they have not fully enjoyed need protection. We understand that the way the CAPMI system was introduced is to buffer the operators and to help them in the infrastructural challenge they have by making consumers to pay upfront.

“If consumers at the end don’t get the required supply of electricity and their funds are being used to support infrastructural deficiency, then we wonder how that can rest well with us. It will, therefore, not be fair for consumers to continue to pay for meters when the meters are not installed at the prescribed period and they are being charged arbitrarily.

“I believe that NERC has come up with a very sound directive that all consumers who have paid for meters should not be disconnected or billed if the meters have not been provided.”

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