Conditions of Supply for Electricity Consumers

Wed, 22 Mar 2017 11:42:21 +0000

 

By Fred Hang’andu

 

  1. Introduction
Going by the inquiries and complaints often received by the Energy Regulation Board (ERB), it is clear that most customers are unaware about the regulatory interventions that have been put in place to safeguard consumer interests.

It is with that background that in this edition we discuss the Conditions of Supply for electricity consumers in Zambia. Recognising the inherent challenges that would arise in the provision of electricity services, the ERB has developed guidelines that are to be followed by electricity service providers.

Those guidelines are outlined in standards, procedures and directives to licensees. One of the key guidelines in the electricity sub-sector is the Conditions of Supply. These conditions are supposed to be handed over and can be demanded by the consumer from the service provider once an account has been opened.

The ERB requires service providers to provide clear terms and conditions for the provision of electricity services to their customers. This is in order that in the event of a dispute, it is easier for customers to seek remedy either from the licensees themselves or through the ERB.

The Conditions of Supply are developed by the service provider but approved by the ERB. They are standard in the sense that similar terms and conditions are applicable to customers in the same category.

In 2014, the ERB approved the current Conditions of Supply and published them in the Government Gazette and nationally circulating newspapers. The conditions shall remain in effect until such a time that they are reviewed and approved by the ERB.

In order to remind consumers of their rights and obligations, we feature aspects of the Conditions of Supply in this column starting with supply and charges and payments. The conditions as extracted from the Conditions of Supply are as follows:

 

  1. Supply of Electricity

 

This section deals with opening of accounts and treatment of the same in the event that a customer relocates. It is therefore critical for home owners, tenants and landlords. A good appreciation of the provisions under this section would avert conflict between tenants and landlords on settlement of bills.

With regard to supply of electricity, the Conditions of Supply specifically provide as follows:

2.1       The supply of electricity is subject to the terms of these conditions of supply, the provisions of the Electricity Act, the Energy Regulation Act, Electricity By-laws, regulations and any other subsidiary legislation affecting the supply of electricity as amended from time to time. These conditions shall not be deemed to limit or derogate from the rights of the Company.

2.2       A Customer who moves out of the premises where he is receiving supply shall inform the Company and terminate the Contract of supply within 48 hours of leaving the premises. Failure to do so may result in the Customer being liable for all charges that will accrue on the account for as long as the Contract of Supply remains in force.

2.3       Any person that moves into premises where the Company is providing supply should report to the Company’s offices within 48 hours to regularize the contract, failure to do so will result in supply being disconnected and legal proceedings being instituted.

2.4       The Company shall be obliged to provide only one point of Supply to a premises.

2.5       Where the intended or actual use of the premises requires more than one point of supply the Customer may apply to the Company, in the prescribed manner, for the provision of additional points of supply which the Company shall provide at its discretion and upon the Customer paying the prescribed fee. Such approval shall not be unreasonably withheld.

2.6       Where a Customer wishes to alter or re-site a point of supply the Customer shall apply to the Company in the prescribed form and pay the fee applicable for such alteration or re-siting.

2.7       Where a Customer requires temporary supply of Power, the Company may provide a temporary point of supply upon the Customer applying in the prescribed form and paying the applicable fee.

2.8       The Company will provide normal/standard supply which may suffer both scheduled and unscheduled interruption. If a Customer requires uninterruptible supply, the Customer must make special arrangements with the Company on conditions to be agreed.

2.9       Except with the written approval (such approval not to be reasonably withheld) of the Company, the Customer shall not do any of the following;

2.9.1.   Resale, re-distribute, or permit the resale or re-distribution of Power supplied to the Customer by the Company

2.9.2.   Increase the total supply of electricity to his installation above the limit which was previously approved by the Company.

 

  1. Charges and Payments

 

Once a company, tenant or landlord or other occupier has secured electricity supply, the next issue is that of charges attendant to use of electricity. This section of the Conditions of Supply therefore addresses the applicable charges that are imposed on the account. Although most customers are now on prepaid metering, there are customer categories particularly of the commercial kind that are on post-paid to whom this section largely applies.

 

The conditions are basically as follows:

  1. a) The tariff for electricity consumption will be in accordance with the approved tariffs by the ERB from time to time.
  2. b) All charges due for Power supplied by the Company or for rental of any meter or other apparatus supplied by the Company to a Customer shall be due, and payable on the date indicated on the statement of monies due (hereinafter called “the Bill”).
  3. c) The Company shall render and send to the Customer a monthly Bill.
  4. d) Unless payment is made within 14 days of the date of account, the supply may be disconnected and will only be reconnected upon payment of the full arrears together with disconnection and reconnection fees, provided that seven (7) days’ notice shall be given to a Customer prior to disconnection of electricity in accordance with ZS 397: Electricity Supply – Quality of Consumer Service.
  5. e) The total amount owing should be paid in full. In the event that the payment made is insufficient to settle the total balance due, the payment shall be appropriated first to the oldest debt and then to the balance.
  6. f) The Company reserves the right to issue interim bills based on average or estimated consumption where it is not possible to obtain an exact meter reading due to a faulty meter, locked premises or any other default attributed to the Customer.
  7. g) Interim and amended Bills are payable on the due date.
  8. h)     The Bill rendered shall be prima facie evidence of the amount due to the Company from the Customer and the Customer’s failure to pay on the due date shall result in a disconnection or termination of supply, provided that seven (7) days’ notice shall be given to a Customer prior to disconnection of electricity in accordance with ZS 397: Electricity Supply – Quality of Consumer Service.

As customers are aware and as was earlier stated, prepaid meters require that one pays before they use electricity. Therefore, the above terms are not for prepaid meter customers.

We shall in future discuss the terms and conditions for prepaid metering as contained in Zambian Standard (ZS) 397, which is the Quality of Service standard.

 

– The author is Senior Manager for Consumer and Public Affairs at ERB. Feedback or queries may be made to erb@erb.org.zm or fhangandu@erb.org.zm

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