If there is any service provider consumers are dissatisfied with, it is the electricity provider. There are overwhelming number of complaints that keep streaming in about the total lack of service and the poor service consumers receive from the 11 electricity distribution companies [DisCos] in the country.
Consumer Watch have been in inundated with many of such complaints from consumers who have been victims of poor service from energy providers.
Though we have received many complaints and have had to channel them to the Consumer Protection Council [CPC] of Nigeria but the recent complaint that prompted this write up is from a vulnerable 83-year-old Mrs. Kate Okonkwo.
The elderly widow, who resides alone in her two bedroom bungalow in Emene, Enugu, Enugu State, has been without electricity for over two years now because she has no one to fight her case.
According to the woman who has been bedridden as a result of acute arthritis, “despite the fact that I have no electrical equipment except four light bulbs, the electricity DisCo was giving me bill of up to N4,000 every month.
“After requesting for explanations without getting any from them and not being able to meet up with the payments, I stopped paying entirely. Without any prior knowledge, they disconnected me and for over two years I have stayed without electricity.”
Consumers need to know their rights and insist on them. One of the challenges we have as energy consumers is that a majority of consumers are unaware of their rights and the unscrupulous officials working in these energy service providers take advantage of that.
Most of the officials know this but because they know that the majority of the consumers are ignorant of their rights, they therefore take advantage of them. Consumer rights and obligations are stated below:
The Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) is empowered by the Electric Power Sector Reform (EPSR) Act, 2005 to ensure an efficiently managed electricity supply industry that meets the yearnings of Nigerians for stable, adequate and safe electricity supply.
The Act mandates the Commission to ensure that electricity operators recover costs on prudent investment and provide quality service to customers.
To ensure quality service delivery, it is pertinent that electricity customers know their rights as follows:
- All new electricity connections must be done strictly based on metering before connection. That is, no new customer should be connected by a DisCo without a metre first being installed at the premises.
- All customers have a right to electricity supply in a safe and reliable manner.
- All customers have a right to a properly installed and functional metre.
- All customers have a right to properly informed and educated on the electricity service.
- All customers have a right to transparent electricity billing.
- All un-metered customers should be issued with electricity bills strictly based on NERC’s estimated billing methodology.
- It is the customer’s right to be notified in writing ahead of disconnection of electricity service by the DisCo serving the customer in line with NERC’s guidelines.
- All customers have a right to refund when over billed.
- All customers have a right to file complaints and to the prompt investigation of complaints.
- All complaints on electricity supply and other billing issues are to be sent to the nearest business unit of the DisCo serving the customer.
- If a complaint is not satisfactorily addressed, customers have a right to escalate the issue to the NERC Forum Office within the coverage area of the DisCo.
- Customers have the right to appeal the decision of the NERC Forum Office by writing a petition to the Commission.
- It is the customer’s right to contest any electricity bill.
- Any un-metered customer who is disputing his or her estimated bill has the right not to pay the disputed bill, but pay only the last undisputed bill as the contested bill go through the dispute resolution process of NERC.
- It is not the responsibility of electricity customer or community to buy, replace or repair electricity transformers, poles and related equipment used in the supply of electricity.
Obligations of consumers
- Pay bills for electricity consumed
- Provide requirements for connection as stipulated by NERC and DisCo
- Vigilant protection of electrical installations
- Cordiality towards electricity workers
- Customer compliance to the requirements of the distribution code
- Pay for electricity used within the stipulated time frame.
- Ensure receipt of monthly electricity bills if not on prepaid metres and lodge a complaint to the DisCo serving you should you not get your bills.
- Ensure that metering and other electrical equipment within your premises belonging to the DisCo not tampered with, or by-passed.
- Notify the DisCo serving you of any tampering or bypass of electricity installations.
- Notify the DisCo serving you of any outstanding electricity bill before moving into new premises.
If everything fails, consumers are advised to send an official letter of complaint to the service provider and ensure you attend the consumer forum to make your complaints open. For more clarifications, contact Consumer watch.
SOURCE: THE NATION