President Nikos Christodoulides was on Monday urged by one of his government allies to get the state-run power utility to refund people in the next batch of electricity bills to go out, claiming that the Electricity Authority (EAC) had ‘cheated’ customers out of the subsidy from May to June.
In a letter addressed to the president, Edek leader Marinos Sizopoulos said the EAC had in many cases not applied the fuel subsidy on electricity bills during the period in question.
Sizopoulos also provided documentation for his claims, presenting samples of electricity bills.
The subsidy expired on June 30. The government has resisted calls to bring it back.
Sizopoulos referred to cases where the last batch of electricity bills included charges for consumption for the first days of July. Here, the EAC apparently decided that because the billing period went beyond the date of expiry of the subsidy – even by just a few days in July – they applied the normal, full rates for the entire billing period.
In short, the EAC did not in fact provide customers with the subsidy/discount they were entitled to.
The Edek MP suggests that, to correct this, the EAC should deduct from the next batch of invoices the amount they ‘owe’ customers.
Calling the situation “unacceptable”, Sizopoulos said the EAC’s action is embarrassing to the government.
He went on to appeal to President Christodoulides to personally intervene to rectify the injustice, given that the EAC itself dodged responding to Edek’s accusations.
The EAC is a semi-governmental organisation.
Edek has been making noises about the EAC’s billing shenanigans since late July.
Later in the day, the EAC commented on the allegations when contacted by media.
EAC spokesperson Christina Papadopoulou said they implemented the government’s decision “faithfully”, adding that people had benefited from the subsidy for 10 months – from September 1, 2022 through to June 30 of this year.
All household customers of the EAC benefited from the subsidy in five bills sent out during that timeframe.
Papadopolou dismissed the notion that the power utility is fleecing customers at a time when their electricity needs are at their highest due to the ongoing heatwave.
She said no EAC invoice issued after June 30 includes the government subsidy.
But her answer did not appear to directly refute Edek’s claims.
A number of citizens groups have been pressing for the reinstatement of electricity subsidies amid the ongoing heatwave – but the government has held fast to the line that state finances permit only narrowly targeted relief.
In mid-July, deputy welfare minister Marilena Evangelou confirmed she had received several petitions from groups asking to be included in electricity subsidies and urging a review of the current provisions.
People are asking to be included in the special ’08’ billing category of the EAC reserved for vulnerable groups.
Evangelou said at the time that expanding the ’08’ category was under consideration.
Meantime the government has announced a scheme for ‘a solar panel on every rooftop’ with the EAC/banks putting up the capital and customers paying back in installments. The government promised the scheme – aimed at driving down electricity costs for households – would be rolled out in early autumn.