Bulgarian government intervenes over double electricity bills in Varna area
Bulgaria’s energy ministry and electricity distribution company Energo-Pro have agreed that clients of the company will get extra time to pay their January electricity bills, after several thousand got double bills due on February 10.
Ironically, it appears that the reason that the company’s clients got double bills was that Energo-Pro was trying to keep to a rule on a 31-day metering period.
In late 2014, Bulgaria’s centre-right government ordered an investigation into the country’s three electricity distribution companies because of allegations that they were exceeding the 31-day period and customers were getting high bills. The investigation found that cases of this happening were extremely rare.
Electricity bills are a particularly sensitive issue for the current government headed by Prime Minister Boiko Borissov. Anti-government protests in early 2012 mobilised around electricity bills led to Borissov resigning as head of government after a violent clash between protesters and police in Sofia.
On January 25 2015, media reports said that 67 000 clients in Energo-Pro’s supply area, around the Bulgarian Black Sea city of Varna, had received double bills.
The first invoices covered November 23 to December 21 and the second from December 22 to January 12. The due date for payment of both invoices was February 10.
The agreement between the energy ministry and Energo-Pro announced on January 25 was that the second invoice need be paid by February 25.
Energy Minister Temenuzhka Petkova told a hastily-convened news conference that the government would not allow “a repeat of the scenario of two years ago” when thousands had protested because of high electricity bills.
She said that the company having issued invoices together covering two billing periods was, from a regulatory point of view, not illegal.
Energo-Pro would inform its clients that the deadline for the payment of the second bill issued for one and the same accountancy period would be extended and that the electricity supply of the consumers would not be cut, she said.
Petkova said that the ministry would check the metering instruments at all three energy distribution companies, starting with Energo-Pro.
She has invited the managements of the three companies for talks to seek mutually acceptable solutions.
“If there are imperfections in the legislation, I am ready to discuss them and, if necessary – to change it,” Petkova said.
She asked the State Energy and Water Regulatory Commission to take action within the framework of its powers to verify the correctness of the invoices issued for the use of electricity.