NERC tasks Discos on transparency, responsiveness to consumer needs
Stakeholders in the power sector have called for transparency, sensitivity and responsiveness from the Distribution Companies (Discos), and the need for a robust relationship between the distributors and the consumers.
Speaking during a webinar organised by Charles Development Foundation at the Nigeria Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) Town Hall Meeting, tagged: “Towards a sustainable billing resolution,” the stakeholders said it was important for the Discos to engage with the customers in virtual meetings to discuss issues and challenges in the sector.
Specifically, General Manager, NERC, Mrs Olufunke Dinneh, noted that the intention of the power sector is to make service delivery better for Nigerians, and cannot afford to get anything short of that.
She said: “the essence of the power sector reform is to leave customers in a better state. They used to say in those days in BPE that a reform that leaves a consumer worse off is no reform. If the customer complains, they must get feedback. There must be a feeling by the customer that there is someone listening; yes, we know you are businessmen, but without the customers, you have no business.
“Discos should engage more with the customers where they have complaints, and let them know that their complaints are being acknowledged. Communication is key; it is the duty of the Discos to disseminate information to customers about their rights and obligations.
“It is very important that Discos move forward and begin to strategise on engaging customers via virtual consultation and forum. NERC has started doing that; we had meetings with CEOs of discos on the rate of resolution of customers’ complaints, and it was a good turnout.
“We want discos to replicate the virtual consultation, as this is the way to go now; and following this meeting, we will be asking that the Discos should submit their plans for virtual consultation, knowing that there will be no physical meeting. We will want the discos to submit to us, their plans for virtual meetings for town hall.”
Also, NERC Commissioner for Consumer Affairs, Moses Arigu, contended that the Discos do not have to wait for customers to demand to be metered, saying that any customer, who does not want to be metered, should be disconnected.
She added: “If the customer refuses to be metered, he should not get service. The order was intended so that the DisCos should be the ones chasing customers to be metered,” while urging Discos not to migrate outstanding bills without the customer’s consent.
Earlier, some of the Discos who were represented at the webinar had complained that some consumers are refusing to be metered and had stalled application for new meters to take advantage of a provision by the regulator that caps how much they can be billed if they do not have meters.
In its order to cap estimated billings, NERC had ordered that all unmetered R2 and C1 customers, basically residential and small business users, should not pay more than N1,870 per month for energy consumed.
Single-phased small users are not to pay more than N200 per month during the transitional period until they are metered. The move was intended to force the DisCos to meter customers.
But Discos alleged that many customers, seeing that this order will significantly reduce how much they pay for power, are now stalling on meter requests under the Meter Assets Providers (MAPs) regulation.
DisCos noted that the limit placed on how much they can charge some classes of customers on estimated billing by the NERC in February, is making many customers opt to remain on the estimated platform as the limit significantly cuts the cost of electricity.
“When they fill their forms and meet all the requirements for a new meter, customers are unwilling to proceed to payment so that their billing can be capped.”
Also speaking, General Manager, Corporate Communication Electricity, Abuja, Oyebode Fadipe, alleged that many times, customers buy their own transformers and other electricity materials for scrupulous reasons.
“While the purchase of transformers and other materials is a consequence of inadequacy, this has become rampant as a result of the willingness of customers not to follow the NERC regulation that says before you invest, there must be an agreement with the Discos.
“We find a situation, where the customers would take unilateral decisions, because there are some financial benefits there. So, they take unilateral decisions, go ahead and purchase these materials, even when they know full well that what they are doing is wrong. Later, they will come back to the Discos to ask how they want to refund the money,” Fadipe added.
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