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Overcharged consumers should be compensated, watchdog says

Savvas Vergas

The consumer association proposed compensating consumers who paid higher charges that went to kickbacks by reducing the rates they pay for rubbish collection and sewerage.

In a written statement on Friday, the association said consumers continued to pay the same rates for the services, despite revelations that they were being overcharged for years while public officials received backhanders.

“Amounts that were much higher than what they ought to be, which included various kickbacks.”

The association said money should be returned in the event of conviction.

“Irrespective however, consumers who were overcharged must be compensated by an immediate reduction in the rates they pay,” the statement said.

According to reports, the association said, from the money paid by residents in Paphos, Larnaca, and Famagusta for rubbish collection, over one million euros went to kickbacks.

“Impunity cannot continue, and people cannot be burdened without justification. It is the responsibility of the authorities to ensure the money paid illegally be returned,” the association said.

It stressed that justice and order will only be restored when overcharged people were compensated.

The association also called for more transparency in the various charges levied by local authorities.

“People must know why they continue to pay the same, or more, despite recycling.”

Authorities have so far charged 13 people — including the mayor of Larnaca and other civil servants —  in connection with the waste scandal involving the landfills at Marathounda, in Paphos, and Koshi, in Larnaca. The trial is set to begin before the Nicosia criminal court on April 26.

A corruption trial relating to the Paphos sewerage system is also underway. The defendants are former municipal councillors Giorgos Michaelides with DISY, Efstathios Efstathiou with DIKO, Vasos Vassiliou with AKEL, and sitting councillor Giorgos Shailis, also with AKEL, and former Paphos mayor – and now EDEK MP – Fidias Sarikas.

Former Paphos mayor Savvas Vergas and the town’s former sewerage board director are currently doing a six-year jail term in connection with the affair.

Both had returned hundreds of thousands in property and cash in a bid for leniency.

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