Eight DISCOs Appear Before CPC Public Hearing

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Dupe Atoki

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Eight Electricity distribution companies appear before the Consumer Protection Council investigative hearing into allegations of indiscriminate charges among others levelled against them by consumers

| By Anayo Ezugwu | Sep 21, 2015 @ 01:00 GMT |

IN fulfilment of its promise to electricity consumers in Nigeria, the Consumer Protection Council, CPC, has began an investigative hearing into allegations of indiscriminate charges levelled against electricity distribution companies in the country. Dupe Atoki, director-general, CPC, at the hearing said the council had been observing the ongoing reforms in the power sector and lamented that two years after the privatisation of the power firms, consumers were still groaning over almost all the issues that existed before the exercise.

She listed some of the complaints by consumers to include estimated billing for non-metered consumers, indiscriminate increase in electricity bills and non-supply of meters to consumers. Others are non-supply of infrastructure requirements to some business units thereby forcing consumers to pay for the same without reimbursement, collection of fixed charge even when there is no power supply and lack of proper consumer complaints redress mechanism.

The CPC director general, DG, said barring any unforeseen circumstance, the investigative panel would submit its report in four weeks. The investigation, according to her, will enable the agency to ascertain the level of compliance by the DISCOs with regulatory guidelines and directives. Atoki said, “The CPC is aware that the electricity industry is a whole gamut that comprises generation, transmission as well as distribution activities. However, electricity distribution companies are the ones directly involved in the provision of power to end users.

“As a result, this investigation panel will engage with the Discos to obtain and evaluate relevant information regarding their operations in relation to consumer complaints. This will guide the CPC in reaching conclusions and recommendations that will translate into enduring solutions for all concerned.

“This 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 consumer.”

The hearing at the CPC headquarters in Abuja, had in attendance representatives of eight of the electricity distribution companies summoned by CPC to appear before the panel to defend themselves against the various allegations levelled by the consumers. The firms that attended the session were the Ibadan, Eko, Abuja, Port Harcourt, Jos, Yola, Benin and Kaduna electricity distribution companies.

Some of the representatives of the Discos, who spoke at the hearing, pledged to cooperate with the CPC. They, however, added that the billing methodology currently being used for electricity consumers was the one approved by the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission, NERC. Godwin Orovwiroro, head, customer services, Port Harcourt Electricity Distribution Company, said the company had stepped up the metering of its customers. He noted that this year alone, the company had metered more than 105,000 of its customers.

The council had through a letter issued on August 26, by Atoki summoned the power firms to appear before the panel to defend the allegations raised by various consumers. In the letter to the firms, Atoki said the investigation was as a result of the fact that the council had been inundated with consumer complaints on exploitative electricity billing.

The agency, in its letter, stated that it has been inundated with complaints commonly referred to as crazy billing by which Discos are alleged to arbitrarily determine consumption level of consumers of electricity and bill them accordingly. The agency also received complaints that many consumers have paid for metres for periods spanning over 12 months, but are yet to be supplied same by their respective DISCOs.

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