At a meeting which was held recently with the CEO of the Regulator for Energy and Water Services (REWS), the Association raised a number of issues. But the main emphasis was the highly unsatisfactory customer service provided by ARMS.
The main complaints focused around the smart meter. The Association made the point that in its opinion these meters are anything but smart. First of all, they do not provide any further information than the old meters and thus do not contribute anything to energy efficiency. But the bone of contention is the basic function that these were supposed to have – issue on time water and electricity bills without the need of a meter reader.
However, many meters, for some reason, do not provide this service with the consequence that bills are not issued on time and more often than not, consumers receive bills which cover many months, at times even years.
To make matters worse, the service provided by the customer care instead of providing an answer to consumers for their questions, provides a bureaucratic answer which does not provide an answer to the query raised thus further frustrating consumers.
A further consequence of not issuing timely bills is that families are faced with huge bills. Most, at first would press for a satisfactory answer, but after a while, succumb to paying the bills as they are threatened that unless payment is made within a time period, they would face the withdrawal of electricity and water supply.
We also pointed out that, when consumers complain about the high bills they are faced with, the bills are presumably sent to the Bulking Committee to see if the bills issued are correct. However, whatever the outcome, no explanation is given to consumers on what basis the bills were adjusted.
The reason for the high bills is not only due to the period of time covered but also due to the way the Eco Reduction is computed. We do not agree with the way the eco-reduction is being implemented as in our opinion it is being manipulated in an unfairly manner to the disadvantage of consumers.
The Association is to send the complaints that we received to the Regulator.
Distribution of gas cylinders
The Association also complained that the decisions which were taken by the Ministry for Consumer Affairs in 2015 regarding the distribution of gas cylinder are still not been implemented. Amongst them one finds that the gas cylinder distributors were to start giving a receipt to consumers. Other changes which were supposed to have taken place are:
an appropriate price display on vehicles and selling points;
provide schedule of deliveries to final customers;
to assist final consumers where possible with all matters relating to the proper use and connection of LPG gas cylinders free of charge;
delivery persons to be properly dressed and well mannered;
delivery of LPG cylinders not to cause any nuisance to the general public;
to provide/set up a call centre for deliveries within six (6) months of signing of this Agreement, and maintain such service in operation thereafter;
The Association has been pressing that these changes are implemented as the 31 distributors mentioned in the decision are being given a subsidy which according to some reports amount to thousands of Euros to implement these changes which were planned to improve the service.
It should be remembered that the Association was not in favour of this subsidy to these distributors. The reason is that the justification to the improvement of the distribution service was a cover-up to give these 31 distributors following the loss of their monopoly which they had for years. Thus these distributors not only benefit from their previous unjustified position which also contravened the Competition Law but also received compensation! To add insult to injury, they are receiving this ‘compensation’ without even honouring their obligations.
The Association will continue to press that these distributors will have to provide the service stipulated in the 2015 decision as otherwise consumers, who are also taxpayers, are being twice cheated.