ARMS: PD ac­cuses REWS of dere­lic­tion of its reg­u­la­tory role

● ‘More fre­quent util­ity bills means more ex­pen­sive bills’

The Malta Independent on Sunday - - NEWS -

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.”

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