Discos overbilled 7.1million customers in nine months – FG

The Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission, an agency under the Federal Government, has implemented numerous regulatory actions against the 11 Distribution Companies (Discos) for not adhering to the mandated limit on billing estimates for customers without meters.

Between January and September 2023, an examination of the most recent monthly figures revealed that approximately 7.1 million electricity customers who did not have meters were charged excessively by power distribution companies. These proceedings confirmed that the electricity distribution firms accumulated more than N105 billion due to charging customers excessively.

Calculations conducted revealed that Yola Electricity Distribution Company charged approximately 42,902 clients an excess of N541.9 million throughout the assessment timeframe. Meanwhile, Abuja Electricity Distribution Company charged an extra N17.9 billion to 1,823,218 customers.

During a nine-month period, Benin Disco charged 754,849 customers excessively, resulting in an undervaluation of N10.5 billion, while Enugu Disco overcharged 1,011,402 customers, leading to an overestimation of N11.9 billion.

Between January and June 2023, Eko Disco charged 371,828 customers excessively for their electricity consumption, as these customers were on estimated billing. The figures for July, August, and September were not included in the report from NERC. The total amount by which these customers were overcharged amounts to N14.13 billion.

Ibadan Disco Company generated revenue of N333.68 million by inaccurately charging 143,465 customers too little between January and September of the previous year. Similarly, Jos Disco Company improperly charged 1,264,537 customers, resulting in excess earnings of N13.3 billion.

Ikeja Disco charged 934,438 customers an excessive total of N20.9 billion, while Kaduna accrued N1.14 billion from overcharging 126,071 electricity consumers within its service area throughout the assessed period.

During a nine-month period, Kano Discos charged 71,120 customers an excessive total of N196.97 million, and between January and June, Port Harcourt Disco overcharged 605,621 customers, resulting in overbilling amounting to N14.2 billion. The data for overbilled customers in July, August, and September was not recorded.

On Saturday, it was announced that the regulatory body overseeing the power industry has decided to impose a financial penalty on the 11 power distribution firms by reducing their yearly permitted earnings by N10,505,286,072 in the upcoming tariff adjustment. This sanction comes as a consequence of the companies failing to adhere to the established limits on estimated billing for customers without meters.

NERC highlighted that in 2023, the practice of charging customers without meters by electricity companies within their respective service territories showed a disregard for the monthly consumption limits set by the regulatory body.

The regulatory authority frequently mandates the highest fee that customers without meters are required to pay to their electricity distribution service provider.

According to a directive from NERC to the power companies, billing will keep going on until the consumer is equipped with a meter by the distribution company.

According to the announcement on Saturday, the regulatory authority stated that the public might remember the 2020 directive concerning the Limitation of Estimated Billing (Order No: NERC/197/2020). This was followed by the establishment of monthly consumption caps intended to bring the estimated billing for customers without meters in line with the actual energy usage of metered customers connected to the same distribution line.

"An examination of how power distribution businesses charge customers without meters in 2023 has shown that they are not adhering to the commission's established monthly limits on energy usage."

To address the issue and protect customers without meters from random charges by Distribution Companies (Discos), the commission announced that in accordance with Section 34(1)(d) of the Electricity Act 2023, it has implemented an order to control the problem of estimated billing not following the set limits (Order No: NERC/2024/004-01 4).

The directive specifies that by the billing cycle of March 2024, Distribution Companies, also known as Discos, must offer credit adjustments to any customers without meters who were overcharged during the period from January to September 2023.

"ii. Notification to the Public: It is mandatory for distribution companies to disclose the names of individuals who benefited from the credit adjustment by advertising the list in two major national newspapers and on their official website by March 31, 2024, at the latest."

"iii. Penalties for Non-Compliance: During the upcoming tariff adjustment, the commission will impose a financial penalty by subtracting a total of N10,505,286,072 from the yearly permitted revenues of the eleven Distribution Companies as a measure to discourage and prevent any future disregard of the energy limits set by the commission."

Electricity users across the country keep filing complaints about the excessively high estimated billing practices of Nigeria's power distribution companies.

An exclusive report dated December 31, 2023, revealed that over a three-month span, customers experienced issues with metering, billing, and power outages, leading them to file a total of 333,947 complaints with their respective power distribution companies.

The report revealed that, as per the NERC's third-quarter analysis for the year 2023, the grievances were filed during the months of July, August, and September.

The report indicated that there was an increase in customer complaints in the third quarter, with 8,049 more instances reported compared to the previous quarter.

The paragraph refers to data from the NERC report, indicating that the combined complaints made to all distribution companies in the third quarter of 2023 amounted to 333,947. It highlights that Ibadan Distribution Company had the most complaints, with 59,901, which is 17.93% of the overall complaints. Meanwhile, Abuja Distribution Company had the fewest grievances, with just 1,919, making up 0.57% of the total number of complaints.

In contrast to the second quarter of 2023, there has been a shift in the customer feedback metrics during the third quarter. Specifically, there was a 2.47% increase in the total complaints received, rising from 325,898 to 333,947. Additionally, the number of cases that were successfully resolved went up by 1.19%, from 313,442 to 317,179. However, the average rate at which resolutions occurred saw a slight decline of 1.2%, dropping from 96.18% to 94.98%.

The Discos in Benin, Jos, and Ikeja experienced reductions in the total number of customer complaints they received, showing declines of 47.85 percent, 26.21 percent, and 1.84 percent respectively when compared to the second quarter of 2023.

On the other hand, eight Distribution Companies (Discos) witnessed a rise in the volume of complaints from consumers, with notable surges seen in Yola (with a 43.28 percent increase), Kano (up by 17.46 percent), and Port Harcourt (experiencing a 16.05 percent rise).

Regarding the nature of grievances, the report highlighted that "meter-related problems (57.31 percent) topped the list of the 333,947 complaints filed with the Distribution Companies in the third quarter of 2023, followed by issues pertaining to billing (12.88 percent), and power outages (8.07 percent)."

The combined total of these three types of complaints made up more than 78% of all the grievances filed within the quarter. Of the 333,947 complaints submitted in the third quarter of 2023, 317,179 were successfully addressed, which represents a resolution success rate of approximately 94.98%.

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