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Discos overbill customers by N105bn, face NERC sanction

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The Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission, on Friday, declared that it would deduct N10,505,286,072 from the annual allowed revenues of the 11 power distribution companies during the next tariff review as part of sanctions over their non-compliance with the capping of estimated bills for unmetered customers.

NERC disclosed this in a notice obtained in Abuja, stressing that the billing of unmetered customers in their various franchise areas for 2023 revealed non-compliance with the monthly energy caps issued by the commission.

The commission explained that the Discos would pay about 10 per cent of the amount they over-billed their customers between January and September 2023.

In separate orders to the Discos, it was established that the power firms over-billed their customers to the tune of about N105bn in nine months.

Abuja Disco, for instance, overbilled its customers without meters to the tune of N17.874bn, while Eko Disco over-billed its unmetered customers by N13.137bn.

Port Harcourt Disco overbilled its customers without meters by N14.187bn, as Kaduna Disco overbilling its customers by N1.145bn.

The regulator ordered the Discos to refund the cheated customers in full and to ensure compliance in the future, stressing that to deter future occurrence, a 10 per cent fine had been imposed on the utilities.

NERC often issues orders stipulating the maximum amount that any unmetered customer is meant pay to the distribution company that provides him or her electricity services.

The amount will continue until the customer is metered by the distribution company, according to NERC’s order to the power firms.

In its notice on Frisay, the regulator said, “The public may recall that in 2020, the commission issued the order on Capping of Estimated Bills (Order No: NERC/197/2020) and subsequently issued monthly energy caps which aimed to align the estimated bills for unmetered customers with the measured consumption of metered customers on the same supply feeder.

“A review of the electricity distribution companies’ billing of unmetered customers for 2023 has revealed non-compliance with the monthly energy caps issued by the commission.”

In response to this and in a bid to safeguard unmetered customers from arbitrary billing by Discos, the commission stated that pursuant to Section 34(1)(d) of the Electricity Act 2023, it had issued the order on Non-Compliance with Capping of Estimated Bills (Order No: NERC/2024/004-01 4).

It said the order stipulates the following: “i. Credit adjustment to customers: Discos are to issue credit adjustments to all over-billed unmetered customers for the period January to September 2023 by the March 2024 billing cycle.

“ii. Public notice: Discos have been directed to publish the list of credit adjustment beneficiaries in two national dailies and on their website no later than March 31, 2024.

“iii, Regulatory sanctions: The commission shall deduct a sum of N10,505,286,072 from the annual allowed revenues of the 11 Discos during the next tariff review, to deter future non-compliance with the energy caps approved by the commission.”

Electricity consumers nationwide have continued to lodge complaints against excessive estimated bills by power distribution companies in Nigeria.

, for instance, exclusively reported on December 31, 2023, that power consumers lodged a total of 333,947 complaints bordering on metering, billing and service interruption to their various distribution companies within a period of three months.

According to the report, this was disclosed in the 2023 third quarter report of NERC, stating that the complaints were lodged in the months of July, August and September 2023.

The report stated that the customer complaints in the third quarter was higher than what was recorded in the preceding quarter by 8,049 cases.

It quoted the NERC report as saying that “the total number of complaints received across all Discos (distribution companies) in 2023/Q3 was 333,947; Ibadan Disco received the highest number of complaints (59,901), representing 17.93 per cent of the total complaints received. Abuja Disco received the least number of complaints (1,919), representing 0.57 per cent of the total complaints received.

“Compared to 2023/Q2, the number of complaints received, number of cases resolved, and average resolution rate changed by +2.47 per cent (333,947 in 2023/Q3 vs. 325,898 in 2023/Q2), +1.19 per cent (317,179 in 2023/Q3 vs. 313,442 in 2023/Q2), and -1.2 per cent (94.98 in 2023/Q3 vs. 96.18 in 2023/Q2) respectively.

“Benin (-47.85 per cent), Jos (-26.21 per cent) and Ikeja (-1.84 per cent) Discos recorded decreases in the number of customer complaints received compared to 2023/Q2.

“Conversely, eight Discos recorded increases in the number of customer complaints with significant increases being recorded by Yola (+43.28 percent), Kano (+17.46 per cent) and Port Harcourt (+16.05 per cent).”

On the type of complaints, the report stated that “the most frequently reported issues among the 333,947 complaints received by Discos in 2023/Q3 were metering (57.31 per cent), billing (12.88 per cent), and service interruption (8.07 per cent).

“These three complaints categories cumulatively accounted for over 78 percent of the total complaints in the quarter. Out of the 333,947 complaints received in 2023/Q3, 317,179 were resolved, translating to a resolution rate of 94.98 percent.”

Meanwhile, the commission, on Friday, reaffirmed its commitment to regulatory compliance and consumer protection within the Nigerian Electricity Supply Industry.

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