The Director-General of the Council, Mr Babatunde Irukera, said this in statement after a meeting with the top management of Abuja Electricity Distribution Company (AEDC), led by its Managing Director, Mr Ernest Mupwaya. The Consumer Protection Council (CPC) on Thursday said that arbitrary billing and indiscriminate disconnection of electricity without consideration for customers paying the bills constituted a gross abuse of consumer rights.The Director-General of the Council, Mr Babatunde Irukera, said this in statement after a meeting with the top management of Abuja Electricity Distribution Company (AEDC), led by its Managing Director, Mr Ernest Mupwaya.Irukera said that the vast majority of complaints in the sector related to the two issues.The managing director, while expressing understanding about challenges in the industry, said there was no excuse for how consumers were treated.“The key complaints that we receive are arbitrary, unsupported and unreasonable billing as well as people not being treated with dignity. The complaint resolution process is either lacking or unclear and there is really no respect for the people,” he said.Irukera added that consumers’ complaints had not been primarily about supply, but about billing for non-existent supply.“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.“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.“What DISCOs are doing is connecting their balance sheets to receivables from consumers, but consumers are connecting what they owe to what they receive,” he said.Irukera, while charging the distribution companies to stop the arbitrary billing system, said that “connecting balance sheet to an opaque arbitrary metering system is the worst form of abuse, especially for an essential public utility”.He said that group disconnection usually adopted by distribution companies because of the debts owed by some members of the affected groups unfortunately disregarded and undermined the rights of other consumers in the groups who did not owe.“People who are complaining about supply because they, as individuals, have been responsible, but the DISCOs have painted them with a broad stroke and disconnected even the responsible people.“As a lawyer, our approach to criminal work, even legal work, has always been that let the guilty man go free instead of punishing the innocent man.“There’s something fundamentally, absolutely irreparable and inexcusably wrong with penalising people, because of the conduct of others.”The CPC boss observed that group disconnection was antithetical to the promotion of an enabling environment for investment.Earlier, Mr Ernest Mupwaya, Managing Director of AEDC, spoke on the need for the company to have a cost reflective tariff.Mupwaya said that this would allow the company to have seamless and robust operation, adding that fluctuation in foreign exchange rates and inflation rate had negative impact on its activities.On estimated billing, he said that efforts were being made to address the metering gap with more meters for consumers and the adoption of an interim plan of metering transformers for a more accurate estimation.“The issue of estimated billing has not been fully resolved because of the low rate of metering. This is closely tied with the impairment on the balance sheet, which is tied to tariff issues.“The balance sheets are impaired to the extent that we are facing huge challenges to attract investments.“I must say that the government, through the power sector recovery programme, has put up a plan that will address these gaps.“There will be a reset this year, and there will be some level of adjustments in such a way that the balance sheets will look better, and this will give us impetus to get more finances,” he said.Mupwaya, however, added that the plan was premised on DISCOs being able to meter customers 100 per cent over 24 months.“So, we have positioned our sales to meet this challenge of metering. But beyond that, we realised that whereas it is important to meter every customer, there is a very quick way to meter all the transformers,” he said.

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