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    Discos overbilled 7.1million customers in nine months – FG

    Power distribution companies overbilled about 7.1 million unmetered electricity consumers between January and September 2023, an analysis of the latest monthly number of overbilled customers showed.

    In the various Regulatory Interventions for Non-Compliance with the Order on Capping of Estimated Billing to Unmetered Customers, issued to the 11 Discos by the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission, an agency of the Federal Government, it was established that the power distributors raked over N105bn as a result of over-billing.

    Figures computed by our correspondent indicated that Yola Disco overbilled about 42,902 customers to the tune of N541.9m during the review period, while Abuja Disco overbilled 1,823,218 customers by N17.9bn.

    Benin Disco overbilled 754,849 customers underestimated billing by N10.5bn, as Enugu Disco overbilled a total of 1,011,402 customers to the tune of N11.9bn during the nine-month period.

    Eko Disco overbilled 371,828 customers under the estimated billing category between January and June 2023, as the months of July, August and September were not captured in the report released by NERC. It overbilled these customers to the tune of N14.13bn.

    Ibadan Disco made N333.68m from the overbilling of 143,465 customers underestimated billing between January and September last year, while Jos Disco overbilled 1,264,537 customers to the tune of N13.3bn.

    Ikeja Disco overbilled 934,438 customers by N20.9bn, as Kaduna raked in N1.14bn from the overbilling of 126,071 power users under its franchise area during the review period.

    Kano Discos overbilled 71,120 customers by N196.97m during the nine month period, while Port Harcourt Disco overbilled 605,621 customers to the tune of N14.2bn between January and June, as the number of overbilled customers in July, August and September were not captured.

    It was reported on Saturday that the power sector regulator declared that it would deduct N10,505,286,072 from the annual allowed revenues of the 11 power distribution companies during the next tariff review as part of sanctions over their non-compliance with the capping of estimated bills for unmetered customers.

    NERC stressed that the billing of unmetered customers by the power firms in their various franchise areas for 2023 revealed non-compliance with the monthly energy caps issued by the commission.

    The regulator often issues orders stipulating the maximum amount that any unmetered customer is meant to pay to the distribution company that provides him or her electricity services.

    The amount is continued until the customer is metered by the distribution company, according to NERC’s order to the power firms.

    In its order, as reported on Saturday, the regulator said, “The public may recall that in 2020, the commission issued the order on Capping of Estimated Bills (Order No: NERC/197/2020) and subsequently issued monthly energy caps which aimed to align the estimated bills for unmetered customers with the measured consumption of metered customers on the same supply feeder.

    “A review of the electricity distribution companies’ billing of unmetered customers for 2023 has revealed non-compliance with the monthly energy caps issued by the commission.”

    In response to this and in a bid to safeguard unmetered customers from arbitrary billing by Discos, the commission stated that pursuant to Section 34(1)(d) of the Electricity Act 2023, it had issued the order on Non-Compliance with Capping of Estimated Bills (Order No: NERC/2024/004-01 4).
    It said the order stipulates the following: “i. Credit adjustment to customers: Discos are to issue credit adjustments to all over-billed unmetered customers for the period January to September 2023 by the March 2024 billing cycle.

    “ii. Public notice: Discos have been directed to publish the list of credit adjustment beneficiaries in two national dailies and on their website no later than March 31, 2024.

    “iii, Regulatory sanctions: The commission shall deduct a sum of N10,505,286,072 from the annual allowed revenues of the 11 Discos during the next tariff review, to deter future non-compliance with the energy caps approved by the commission.”

    Electricity consumers nationwide have continued to lodge complaints against excessive estimated bills by power distribution companies in Nigeria.

    The PUNCH, for instance, exclusively reported on December 31, 2023, that power consumers lodged a total of 333,947 complaints bordering on metering, billing and service interruption to their various distribution companies within a period of three months.

    According to the report, this was disclosed in the 2023 third quarter report of NERC, stating that the complaints were lodged in the months of July, August and September 2023.

    The report stated that the customer complaints in the third quarter was higher than what was recorded in the preceding quarter by 8,049 cases.

    It quoted the NERC report as saying that “the total number of complaints received across all Discos (distribution companies) in 2023/Q3 was 333,947; Ibadan Disco received the highest number of complaints (59,901), representing 17.93 percent of the total complaints received. Abuja Disco received the least number of complaints (1,919), representing 0.57 percent of the total complaints received.

    “Compared to 2023/Q2, the number of complaints received, number of cases resolved, and average resolution rate changed by +2.47 percent (333,947 in 2023/Q3 vs. 325,898 in 2023/Q2), +1.19 percent (317,179 in 2023/Q3 vs. 313,442 in 2023/Q2), and -1.2 per cent (94.98 in 2023/Q3 vs. 96.18 in 2023/Q2) respectively.

    “Benin (-47.85 percent), Jos (-26.21 percent) and Ikeja (-1.84 percent) Discos recorded decreases in the number of customer complaints received compared to 2023/Q2.

    “Conversely, eight Discos recorded increases in the number of customer complaints with significant increases being recorded by Yola (+43.28 percent), Kano (+17.46 percent) and Port Harcourt (+16.05 percent).”

    On the type of complaints, the report stated that “the most frequently reported issues among the 333,947 complaints received by Discos in 2023/Q3 were metering (57.31 percent), billing (12.88 per cent), and service interruption (8.07 percent).

    “These three complaints categories cumulatively accounted for over 78 percent of the total complaints in the quarter. Out of the 333,947 complaints received in 2023/Q3, 317,179 were resolved, translating to a resolution rate of 94.98 percent.”

    Meanwhile, the commission has reaffirmed its commitment to regulatory compliance and consumer protection within the Nigerian Electricity Supply Industry.

    Consumers expressed optimism that the power sector regulator would ensure the enforcement of this latest sanction on Discos, with the hope that it would deter the power firms from overbilling electricity users on estimated billing.

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