De­spite com­plaints dat­ing back years, in­for­ma­tion on ARMS FAQs still mis­lead­ing

The Malta Independent on Sunday - - NEWS -

He­lena Grech De­spite the nu­mer­ous com­plaints raised with ARMS by con­sumers, the state wa­ter and elec­tric­ity en­tity, over the way in which the eco-re­duc­tion ben­e­fit is cal­cu­lated, in­for­ma­tion avail­able on­line re­mains woe­fully mis­lead­ing.

This is­sue was even raised with the Om­buds­man way back in 2012 by an ag­grieved con­sumer who was un­der­stand­ably frus­trated with the state of af­fairs. In the Om­buds­man’s con­clu­sions, he wrote that while he could not up­hold the com­plaint raised by the con­sumer, he rec­om­mended that ARMS and Ene­malta en­sure that in­for­ma­tion cir­cu­lated to the pub­lic re­flected the leg­is­la­tion un­der­pin­ning the pol­icy. The con­sumer had filed a com­plaint based on the in­for­ma­tion he had re­ceived from ARMS on the eco-re­duc­tion and, since his fam­ily’s an­nual con­sump­tion was be­low the ad­ver­tised thresh­olds, he cal­cu­lated that he was owed the re­duc­tion and there­fore asked them to re­vise his bill.

From in­for­ma­tion made avail­able on­line through the ARMS web­site and a ‘let­ter’ sent to this news­room by an ARMS spokesper­son for pub­li­ca­tion, the eco-re­duc­tion is still not be­ing ex­plained as clearly as it should be.

Last Sun­day, The Malta In­de­pen­dent on Sun­day wrote about the con­fu­sion sur­round­ing the eco-re­duc­tion, where most cit­i­zens un­der­stood that it was cal­cu­lated based on an­nual con­sump­tion.

The eco-re­duc­tion con­ces­sion is a form of ‘dis­count’ awarded to con­sumers whose elec­tric­ity con­sump­tion stays be­low a spe­cific amount, act­ing as an in­cen­tive to be mind­ful of waste.

It is widely un­der­stood that el­i­gi­bil­ity for the eco-re­duc­tion can be achieved by not ex­ceed­ing 1,750 units per per­son per year, in the case of house­holds with more than one per­son reg­is­tered to be liv­ing there. A pro­por­tion of 25 per cent is dis­counted on the first 1,000 units con­sumed and a fur­ther 15 per cent on the re­main­ing 750 units con­sumed. For house­holds with one reg­is­tered per­son, the thresh­old is 2,000 units per year.

If that seems de­cep­tively sim­ple to un­der- stand, this is be­cause it is. The of­fi­cial def­i­ni­tion that has been pro­vided by ARMS to con­sumers who have in­quired through e-mail, as well as the def­i­ni­tion found on the Ene­malta web­site, reads:

“A Res­i­den­tial Premises Ser­vice, which is pro­vided to the pri­mary res­i­dence of an in­di­vid­ual, shall be el­i­gi­ble for an Eco Re­duc­tion of the amount due for con­sump­tion of elec­tric­ity for the billing pe­riod in ques­tion, which shall be cal­cu­lated in ac­cor­dance with the fol­low­ing rates and thresh­olds, on a pro rata ba­sis of the rel­a­tive an­nual cu­mu­la­tive con­sump­tion. The re­duc­tion will not be ap­pli­ca­ble if the in­di­cated thresh­olds are ex­ceeded.

“Two or more per­son house­holds

Sub­ject that con­sump­tion does not ex­ceed 1,750 units per per­son per year, the fol­low­ing dis­counts will ap­ply: (1) 25% on the first 1,000 units; (2) 15% on the re­main­ing 750 units or part thereof.” Es­sen­tially, ARMS are cal­cu­lat­ing the thresh­old of elec­tric­ity con­sump­tion per house­hold based on the num­ber of peo­ple reg­is­tered, it cal­cu­lates out how much that equates to in terms of con­sump­tion per day, and works out the ecore­duc­tion based on the num­ber of days cov­ered by the bill. If, on one par­tic­u­lar day, the thresh­old was ex­ceeded by one sin­gle unit, the eco-re­duc­tion for the en­tire billing pe­riod is lost. In the con­clu­sions to his in­ves­ti­ga­tion he car­ried out into the con­sumer’s com­plaint, the Om­buds­man wrote: “In the cir­cum­stances, I can­not there­fore up­hold the com­plaint, even though I con­clude that [the] com­plainant could have been mis­led by the in­cor­rect in­for­ma­tion given out by ARMS Ltd and Ene­malta. “I rec­om­mend that, in fu­ture, Ene­malta and ARMS Ltd should be more care­ful when pub­li­cis­ing schemes in which con­sumers are in­vited to par­tic­i­pate and to en­sure that in­for­ma­tion given scrupu­lously re­flects the con­tent of the leg­is­la­tion un­der which it is is­sued.” When look­ing at the ARMS Fre­quently Asked Ques­tions, in the ‘billing sec­tion’, the ques­tion and re­ply are as fol­lows:

“How is eco-re­duc­tion cal­cu­lated?

“Your eco-re­duc­tion is cal­cu­lated on the num­ber of reg­is­tered con­sumers on your ac­count. If your elec­tric­ity ac­count has one reg­is­tered con­sumer and you con­sume less than 2000 elec­tric­ity units dur­ing the whole year, a re­duc­tion of 25% on the elec­tric­ity bill will ap­ply. For res­i­dences with more than one per­son reg­is­tered on the ac­count, and where con­sump­tion is less than 1,750 units per per­son, a re­duc­tion of 25% per per­son will ap­ply on the first 1,000 units and a fur­ther 15% per per­son will ap­ply on the re­main­ing 750 units.”

At no point does it men­tion that the cal­cu­la­tions are based on quota ra­tioning for the num­ber of days cov­er­ing the billing pe­riod.

In a let­ter sent to this news­room for pub­li­ca­tion back in Novem­ber 2016 by the chief ARMS spokesper­son, Nikita Zam­mit Ala­mango, in re­sponse to a cit­i­zen pub­li­cally ask­ing – on a ra­dio talk show –how the eco re­duc­tion was cal­cu­lated, she sent in the ex­act def­i­ni­tion as stated above.

On the Ene­malta web­site it is clearly stated that the cal­cu­la­tion is based on the num­ber of days cov­er­ing the bill. It would, how­ever, be bet­ter if Ene­malta and, even more so, ARMS pub­lished an ex­am­ple of its cal­cu­la­tions in or­der to in­form the pub­lic that it is con­sump­tion per day that needs to be mon­i­tored.

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