ELECTRICITY provider, edp, is charging consumers after delays of more than six months, an illegal development for basic public services. Some consumers have filed complaints about the late bills, prompting edp to claim that it could not access homes to make meter readings in time.
Consumer organisation, Deco, has received 48 complaints about electricity bills that are more than a year old, in the period between March and the end of April this year. A resident of Odivelas received a bill in January for 135.82 euros relating to electricity consumed since July 2003. The client charged that the bill was “grossly inflated” and that she should not have been billed for consumption dating back more than one year.Deco says it is now receiving complaints about such cases on a daily basis.
The Odivelas customer complained to edp, requesting that she be charged only for consumption relating to the last six months, in accordance with the law. Edp responded that the invoice corresponded to consumption over and above the estimated reading. The client maintained that edp was at fault for not reading the meter at the time, a complaint upheld by Deco. “It’s the organisation’s responsibility to effect meter readings for electricity or gas at least twice a year,” explained Ana Tapadinhas, a legal expert at Deco.
The Law of Services of General Interest (number 23/96 – June 26, article 10) stipulates rules regarding payment of services. Point two of this law clarifies the position: “If, through a mistake on the part of the service provider, the provider is paid an amount lower than the actual consumption, the right to receive the difference lapses six months after the payment period in question.”
Spokeswoman Maria Antónia Fonseca, from the edp’s Office of Communications, defends her organisation: “The supplier has to access the meter and it is very complicated when the apparatus is inside the residence. Then we cannot gain access and people fail to provide us with readings,” she says. In certain cases, and in situations where there are disputed accounts, it is a question of whose version of events can be trusted. Some clients claim they were at home during a visit from edp and that they did not hinder access to a meter reading. Sometimes, edp has a different version of events, claiming that entry was impossible.
Fonseca says that users can arrange a time for an edp employee to come and read the meter, and promises that it is possible to schedule visits within a two-hour period so as to avoid a customer losing a day’s work waiting in for an edp employee. Alternatively, customers can pass on meter readings in person at edp outlets, or by phone or via the internet.