ARMS: PD accuses REWS of dereliction of its regulatory role
● ‘More frequent utility bills means more expensive bills’
Partit Demokratiku said yesterday that it has recently received numerous complaints concerning the arbitrary manner in which ARMS Ltd is altering bill periods in order to maximise the rate that it is allowed to charge consumers.
“This,” it said, “is leading to the perverse situation where certain families are charged the highest tariffs in peak months, whilst their allowable band of cheaper tariffs is left unutilised in other months.”
It also welcomed Minister Joe Mizzi’s call for an investigation after the publication of a number of articles on the subject by this newspaper and its sister daily edition.
PD noted that, according to Eurostat, the average residential tariffs had not reduced by 25 per cent as Enemalta had projected at the time of application for the tariff revision, but only by 15.6 per cent.
It observed that, based on the latest available Eurostat statistics, Malta has the highest av- erage cost of electricity households in Europe.
“This suggests that the current tariffs are providing Enemalta with greater revenues and a greater return than allowed by the regulator and clearly runs contrary to the tariffs approved by the MRA in 2014, which states that the tariffs are to be applied on a cumulative consumption per annum basis.”
Enemalta has been quoted as saying that the Enemalta Act allows it to bill at a pro-rata basis, but PD noted that there is a clear difference between “utilising this clause to facilitate timely and purposefully billing periods in order to charge tar- for iffs at a higher rate than allowed when reconciling bills on a cumulative consumption per annum basis as dictated by law”.
PD notes that, whatever Enemalta says, it is always subject to the regulator – the Regulator for Energy and Water Services (REWS).
“The silence of the MCCAA (Malta Competition and Consumer Affairs Authority), the regulator that protects consumer rights, is also remarkably deafening.
“The function of REWS is to promote the interests of consumers and other users in Malta, particularly vulnerable consumers, especially in respect of prices charged for, and the quality and variety of the services and, or products regulated by or under this Act. It is evident that this role is not being fulfilled.
“The role of strong and independent regulators is crucial for protecting consumers from abusive by monopolies, as in the case of Enemalta.”
PD emphasised the “urgent need for independence, as both operator and regulator fall under the same Ministry, an anomaly introduced in 2013 by Minister Konrad Mizzi. So far, it is very noticeable that regulators are protecting a hidden agenda and consumer rights are in jeopardy.”