The Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission on Monday ordered that refunds should be made to overbilled customers of the Abuja Electricity Distribution Company (AEDC). This is following earlier Notice of Enforcement and subsequent investigation of instances of overbilling perpetrated by the electricity distribution company.
In an Order Number NERC/139, which copy was obtained by newsmen yesterday the commission directed: “AEDC shall with immediate effect from the date of this Order commence refund through energy credit of all excess charges billed its customers as a direct consequence of the adjustments” in estimated methodology in some of the company’s business units.
The Commission further ordered AEDC to within five days notify the affected customers of the overbilling in writing in line with Regulation 9 (7) of the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission’s Meter Reading, Billing, Cash Collections and Credit Management for Electricity Suppliers Regulation 2007.
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AEDC is also expected to publish in a newspaper with wide circulation within its franchise area an apology to affected customers stating their business units and the amount of excess charges billed them during the period under review.
The electricity distribution company is expected to report back within two months beginning from June 15, 2015, to the Commission over its compliance with the sanctions meted on it.
It would be recalled that the Commission on Thursday April 16, 2015 issued on AEDC Notice of Enforcement Action over what it described as ‘manifest and flagrant breaches’ of approved methodology for estimated billing of electricity consumers.
The company was given 7 days to explain why enforcement action should not be taken against it for non-compliance with the terms and conditions of its licence, the Methodology for Estimated Billing 2012 and was directed to submit a comprehensive data used for the billing of unmetered customers for the period under review.
That notice was a follow up action to previous investigations and forensic observations of electricity distribution companies’ operations through which an unusual increases in estimated billings of electricity consumers were observed within the last quarter of 2014 by NERC.
The company which had then requested the Commission for an extension of period later forwarded its written submission and investigation was conducted by a team of experts after which this sanction is pronounced by NERC.
AEDC was investigated for arbitrary imposition of random figures on clusters of its customers ranging from 18 to 28 per cent between October and December 2014 and in some cases 1,100 per cent increase, which resulted in spike in customers’ bills as against the provisions of the Methodology for Estimated Billing Regulations 2012.
The electricity distribution company was said to have tripled its customers bills issued in September 2014 and issued it as bills for October 2014, without evidence of a commensurate increase in electricity supply within the same period.
According to the Notice, AEDC failed to forward report of the estimated billings it issued in every billing circle as provided under section 9 of the Methodology for Estimated Billing Regulation 2012, in the format prescribed by the regulation.
Following AEDC’s failure to comply with NERC regulation over its continued issuance of “outrageous and unusually very high bills” to its customers and for not complying with stipulated format in its presentation to the Commission, the company was then given seven days to explain itself if it will escape sanctions.
Following conclusions of investigations of grounds of misdemeanour levelled against it, the Commission has ordered AEDC to refund the affected customers through energy credit of all excess charges those customers were billed.