Minister urges consumer to adjust to new reality
James Emejo in Abuja
The Consumer Protection Council (CPC) yesterday carried its campaign against consumer right abuses to the Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Mr. Babatunde Fashola, asking the minister to hold operators in the power and housing sectors accountable with regards to their contracts with consumers.
Speaking during a courtesy call on the minister in his Mabushi office, Abuja, the Director General of the Council, Mrs. Dupe Atoki, lamented that despite measures being put in place by the nation’s electricity industry regulators to ensure effective service delivery, CPC was still inundated with myriads of consumer complaints against operators in the sector.
She said some of these complaints included non-metering of consumers, which results in estimated and arbitrary billing of a huge consumer population; non-supply of infrastructure requirements, such as transformers, electric poles and cables to some business units, thereby forcing consumers to pay for same without reimbursement; and irregular disconnection.
Atoki further pointed out that in the housing sector, “many estate developers engage in the dubious practice of collecting money from unsuspecting consumers without delivering on the promise to provide them with houses,” adding that “even when houses are delivered to consumers, they are usually of very poor quality.”
She requested the minister to “evolve a quick means of reversing the compulsion of consumers by electricity Distribution Companies (DISCOs) to pay for services not rendered”, stressing that “business practice that compels consumers to pay for services not rendered is clearly exploitative.”
In a statement by CPC spokesman, Abiodun Obimuyiwa, she also charged the minister to prioritise consumers’ interests in policy formulation in the power sector.
On consumers’ concerns in the housing sector, the director general observed that the uncontrolled activity of estate developers without proper regulation has not worked well for consumers and the housing sector, noting with dismay that “Self-regulation in the sector by professional bodies has only been protective of members (estate developers).”
Atoki advised the ministry to “introduce policies and regulatory measures that will, among others, set the ground norms for the licensing and operation of estate developers; standardise housing development; and check the arbitrary and unjust treatment of consumers in the housing sector.”
Responding, the Fashola commended renewed vibrancy of CPC, adding that “the CPC’s standing up will raise standards of service delivery, it will hold service providers, including myself, the ministry to account for the quality of service we render.”
He argued that much as the consumers are regarded as the king, they must also realise that they have duties to acquaint themselves “with the process under which electricity is now being provided.”
The minister said: “All of us must know that our service providers have changed. This is the beginning of ownership. Ownership is important because no DISCO can fix a tariff without your participation. It is not possible. The discos must prove that people participated in the discussion for a new tariff.”