Revisions to electricity bills calculation method expected in coming days

Energy minister Miriam Dalli says revision to ARMS bills computation will address 'anomaly' introduced in 2009 • Malta to tell European partners it is against a mandatory reduction in electricity usage

Energy minister Miriam Dalli pictured talking to Italian minister for ecological transition Roberto Cingolani at a meeting of EU energy ministers
Energy minister Miriam Dalli pictured talking to Italian minister for ecological transition Roberto Cingolani at a meeting of EU energy ministers

Revisions to the way electricity bills are worked out by national utility company ARMS will be announced in the coming days, energy minister Miriam Dalli said on Wednesday.

Dalli said that extensive work had been carried out over the past few months covering technical and legal aspects in order to address ‘a legal anomaly’ in the way ARMS computes water and electricity bills.

“We have worked on this for months as there was need for a radical change both involving the law and in the technical aspect,” she said. “We have now concluded this work and will be announcing the new system for Maltese and Gozitan residents and families in the coming days.”

In a landmark decision in July, the court declared that the method used by ARMS to bill consumers for their electricity consumption was not only incorrect, but illegal.

Judge Anna Felice was presiding the First Hall of the Civil Court, deciding a case filed by two consumers against ARMS in 2017.

The plaintiffs had taken ARMS to court, claiming that the bills as calculated and issued by the company were “disloyal and misleading” after they noticed that between September 2016 and September 2017 they had been billed on a pro-rata annual basis.

The legal notice regulating electricity supply, however, explicitly stipulates that while residential buildings were to be billed on the annual cumulative consumption, which could be calculated on a pro-rata basis, that calculation had to reflect the actual amount consumed during that year.

Dalli said on Wednesday that the government was implementing the revisions even though Malta – like other countries – was facing challenges as a result of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

“Despite these challenges, we are ensuring that the people will be helped through unprecedented assistance, even because this in an exceptional circumstance than no one was expecting,” she said.

In a press statement issued in the wake of the judgement, the PN spokesman for Energy and Enterprise, Mark Anthony Sammut said that the PN’s long-held claim that ARMS’ billing process, introduced in 2014, was illegal had been borne out by the judgement.

“This confirms that the excuse used by the government, that this billing system was a result of a Legal Notice introduced by a PN government in 2009 is simply a lie. The court clearly declared that the method used by the Labour government in 2014 is in breach of that Legal Notice and not a result of following it.”

The PN maintained its position that the annual adjustment should apply to everyone and that every affected consumer be refunded, not just those who filed court proceedings to recover overpaid amounts.

In a statement, the Energy Ministry said it was going to be analysing the court’s decision. “What was promised in this year’s budget should in no way prejudice any action that may still be taken,” it warned.

Reducing electricity use

Dalli said that in an upcoming meeting of the Energy Council, the government will be informing its European partners that Malta does not agree with a mandatory reduction in the use of electricity.

The European Commission is proposing enforced reduction of electricity use in peak times.

But Dalli said that Malta cannot do this, as unlike other countries, since it is not ‘highly electrified’.

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