Bulgaria’s Commission for Protection of Competition (CPC) said on May 29 that it fined Sofiyska Voda, the water utility in Bulgarian capital city Sofia owned by utilities conglomerate Veolia, 4.8 million leva (about 2.45 million euro) for abuse of its dominant market position.
The regulator said that the company breached fair competition practices by charging interest on overdue bills for months when the company did not know how much water its customers used.
Sofiyska Voda bills customers every month, but only checks meters every three months – at which point it tells customers whether they owe more money or are owed a rebate. The other two months in this period, Sofiyska Voda bills are based on company projections of water usage, calculated with a formula that takes into account previous water usage.
It is this practice of charging interest on unpaid bills based on water usage projections that the CPC said was illegal.
“The company’s practice directly harms consumers’ interests, inasmuch as the amounts owed for the first two months of the reporting period are not ascertained by checking the meters, whereas the delay penalty requires an exact calculation of the value of the service used,” the regulator said in a statement.
Sofiyska Voda is majority owned by Veolia Water, itself a unit of French utilities group Veolia Environnement. The company can appeal the fine at the Supreme Administrative Court.
In March, when CPC began its investigation against Sofiyska Voda, the company said that it had been previously fined by the National Revenue Agency precisely for not charging interest on overdue bills based on water usage projections.
(Photo: Giani Pralea/sxc.hu)