New law proposes one-year jail, N1m fine for estimated billing

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The Electricity Power Reform Act (Amendment) Bill 2018, which was passed by the House of Representatives last Tuesday, has criminalised estimated billing. The bill adds that defaulters will be sentenced to one-year jail term and a fine of N1m.

The proposed law, which still has to go through the Senate, and presidential assent,  also compels all electricity distribution companies to give prepaid meters to applicants within 30 days.

The new law will prohibit a Disco from disconnecting a consumer after the 30-day period within which a meter should be installed.

The Majority Leader of the House, Mr Femi Gbajabiamila, who sponsored the bill, lamented the spate of unabated ‘crazy’ billing of consumers by the Discos.

According to him, estimated billing is only acceptable when a consumer’s meter could not be accessed by the service provider, adding that Discos have adopted estimated billing as the norm.

“Any regulation that allows estimation of bills when the actual consumption can be ascertained is against natural justice and equity and should not stand,” he added.

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“The bill will ensure that prepaid meters are installed in all houses, so long as the customers apply for the meters,” he had said.

The House passed the bill upon the adoption of the committee report on the proposed law, following a public hearing held on June 5, 2018.

Speaking during the public hearing, the house leader noted that the case of arbitrary billing is peculiar to Nigeria.

Sections 68 to 72 are some of the amendments to the Principal Act. Section 68 states, “(1) Estimated billing methodology is hereby prohibited in Nigeria.

“(2) Every electricity consumer in Nigeria shall apply to the Electricity Distribution Company carrying out business within his (or her) jurisdiction for a prepaid meter and such consumer shall pay the regulated fee for prepaid meter to be installed in his (or her) premises and the Electricity Distribution Company shall within 30 days or receiving the application and payment install the prepaid meter applied for in the premises of the consumer.

“(3) Customers who elect to buy their prepaid meters through credit advancement metering implementation must state in their applications and such customers must be metered within 30 days of the receipt of their applications.

“(4) All electricity charges or billings to the premises of every consumer shall be based strictly on prepaid metering and no consumer shall be made to pay any bill without a prepaid meter first being installed at the premises of the consumer.”

In the new Section 69, the proposed law mandates the Disco serving the consumer, upon connection, must inform the customer in writing on the nature of the meter installed, tariff methodology and all other services available to the customer.

The new Section 70 adds that, the National Electricity Regulatory Commission, as the regulatory body, must ensure that all licensed Discos comply with the provisions of this Act.

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