Grech pledges €50 million refund in 'stolen' electricity overcharge

Utility bills confirms PN’s hypothesis of overcharging on energy, 'people robbed of millions' says Bernard Grech

PN leader Bernard Grech
PN leader Bernard Grech

The Nationalist Party has accused the Maltese government of robbing utility customers “millions” in additional payments on energy bills after a National Audit Office carried out its review of the Enemalta payment structure.

Opposition leader Bernard Grech said the NAO audit had confirmed what the PN had already claimed early on in the day when the Labour government privatised energy generation. “The Maltese have been robbed for years. We never had any doubt. Today we have an independent source telling us as much.”

A draft report by the NAO found that consumers could have paid “extra charges” totalling €6.5 million on their electricity and water bills.

Grech pledged that a Nationalist adminstration would return €50 million in over-charged bills from eight years of billing since Enemalta changed its billing structure, and then started sourcing energy from the Electrogas LNG plant. “The governemnt has a legal and moral duty to find any way to give back to citzien what it has stolen,” Grech said.

The NAO found a variance of €4.6 million in electricity bills and €1.9 million variance in water bills.

A legal challenge was mounted by two consumers in 2019, who are arguing the calculation of their bills on a pro-rata basis rather than an annual one was leading them to be overcharged by ARMS, the state utilities billing arm.

The PN has already claimed its own studies on overbilling found 80 per cent of the 1,250 bills it analysed contained some sort of “mistake” in the way the tariffs were calculated.

The NAO’s findings were part of a wider audit into the effectiveness of smart meters and water radio frequency meters.

PN deputy leader for parliamentary affairs David Agius said the Labour administration had failed to fulfil a promise by former prime minister Joseph Muscat to review the Enemalta pricing structure.

Nationalist MP Ryan Callus said Malta’s energy fate was bound by Enemalta’s long-term deal with Electrogas, whose shareholder SOCAR sources LNG supplies at prices it determines. “The interconnector to Italy has always provided us with cheaper energy, yet the Electrogas deal is now a millstone around our neck.”

Muscat claim

Consumers bitten by “an anomaly” in the utility billing system were told they could get redress by 2020, Joseph Muscat had said back in 2019. The issue concerns the manner by which utility billing company ARMS has been calculating bills every two months.

The two-monthly actual bills being sent to consumers are splitting the annual quota of cheap units into smaller portions. As a result, consumers end up jumping into the higher brackets every two months, and with ARMS failing to reconcile the bills on an annual basis, consumers end up paying more.

Muscat had said there was an “anomaly” in the manner by which bills were calculated that was impacting “a particular bracket”.

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