*Authorises Discos to cut off customers who refuse to grant access to meters
Emmanuel Addeh in Abuja
Nigerians who are wrongfully disconnected by electricity Distribution Companies (Discos) would henceforth be entitled to compensation through the issuance of energy credits, a new regulation signed by the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC), has indicated.
The new rule endorsed by the Chairman of the power sector regulator, Sanusi Garba, tagged: “Customer Protection Regulations,” further highlighted that the compensation will be calculated on the basis of the number of days that the premises is removed from the source of power.
According to NERC, the portion of the regulation will be implemented given that the customer has fully discharged his obligation by paying the Disco fully or has an arrangement to offset the debt in instalments.
In addition, NERC in the document signed on March 29, exempted premises that have life support facilities from being disconnected, where the Disco is aware of the presence of the machines.
“A distribution company shall not disconnect a customer’s supply of electricity for non-payment where the customer has paid the amount billed or where the customer has entered into a payment arrangement with the distribution company and payments are being made in accordance with that arrangement,” the NERC rule stated.
Besides, the regulator stated that a customer cannot be disconnected when he or she has filed a complaint on the unpaid bill in accordance with the commission’s customer complaints procedure and the complaint remains unresolved.
It added: “A distribution company shall not disconnect electricity supply to any premises where, it is aware, that a life support machine is in use.
“Customers that have life support machines installed at the premises shall enter into an acceptable arrangement with the distribution company for the settlement of their bills and the distribution company may seek to recover any debt due from these customers by other legal means.
“Customers that are disconnected in contravention of these regulations shall be compensated by the distribution company. Customers shall be compensated with energy credits, that are equivalent to their average daily consumption computed on the basis of their consumption or bills for the last three months, for each day the wrongful disconnection lasts,” it stressed.
A Disco, it said, shall reconnect electricity supply to a customer’s premises within the period stipulated in the regulations where a customer disconnected for non-payment of electricity bill pays all its charges as approved by the commission.
While listing the conditions under which a distribution company may disconnect a customer’s electricity supply without notice, NERC said that one of them is a situation where the customer is connected to the Disco’s network in an unauthorised manner.
In addition, NERC mentioned a situation where the customer’s connection is considered to be dangerous to the integrity of the network and/or affects the quality of supply to other customers or where the Disco is not granted access to read a meter that is located within the customer’s premises.
Customers who request for supply of electricity, may also be declined, according to NERC, where the customer refuses to provide an acceptable means of identification and/or refuses to pay the security deposit requested by the Disco.
Whenever a customer requests a Disco to disconnect electricity supply to his premises, NERC added that it shall disconnect the supply after confirming that the customer’s request will not impact on other customers in the premises that require continued supply.
“The Disco shall ensure that it is able to monitor consumption to the premises of the customer, that has requested a disconnection that was not effected due to the impact on other customers in the premises, to assess the customer’s consumption.
“A Disco shall not bill a customer for any period after the date on which electricity supply should have been disconnected in accordance with section 23(1)” NERC stressed.
In calculating the amount of the payment under an arrangement which includes advance payment for future bills, NERC said that a Disco shall not under any circumstances inflate the value of the payments above the amount the customer would ordinarily be expected to pay.
Also, where it is established that a Disco has not complied with the commission’s approved methodology for billing unmetered customers, the industry regulator said the Disco shall refund the excess charges to the customer at the next billing cycle.
“A customer dissatisfied with the outcome of the handling of his complaint(s) by the CCU of the distribution company may refer his complaint(s) to the Commission’s Forum Office (CCO) at the expiration of the maximum allowable period of 30 days.
“Where the distribution company and the customer are unable to agree on a resolution to a complaint either party may refer the complaint to the commission’s forum office” it stated.