Bulgaria’s competition watchdog levies new charges on electricity distributors

Bulgaria’s Commission for Protection of Competition (CPC) levied new charges of unfair trade practices against the country’s three private electricity distribution companies on July 25.

The three distribution firms – owned by Czech CEZ and Energo-Pro, as well as Austria’s EVN – are accused of using their dominant position in “applying various practices to exchange important information between subsidiaries of the same distribution group about customers” that want to purchase electricity on the liberalised market, rather than directly from the distribution firms.

In doing so, the three distribution groups are creating obstacles to the process of changing suppliers for non-household consumers, the regulator said. The three distribution companies were given 60 days to present their objections to the findings and be heard at an open meeting of the CPC.

This is the second time in less than three months that CPC found the electricity distribution firms guilty of unfair practices, having said on May 13 that the companies were abusing their dominant market position when giving access to cable TV and internet service providers to utility poles.

Such power poles were part of the electricity infrastructure owned by the distribution firms and their maintenance costs were already factored into the bills paid by consumers. As such, renting use of utility poles to other companies was an additional revenue stream for the companies, CPC said at the time.

The electricity-trading arms of the three companies are also subject to licence revocation proceedings by the State Energy and Water Regulatory Commission (SEWRC), as a result of their ongoing commercial dispute with state electricity utility NEK.

In May, the utilities regulator said that it found 2690 violations during a regulatory audit, estimating the total amount of fines against the three companies at 50 million leva (about 25.6 million euro). However, there have been no new announcements from the SEWRC on the fines or the licence revocation proceedings over the past two months.



The Sofia Globe staff

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