A group of residents are planning a class action lawsuit against the utility biller ARMS as they feel cheated over the way they are being charged for electricity consumption.
One of the residents, Patricia Graham, said customers are being advised to take note of their monthly consumption and then either use ARMS’ own online calculator or, if they are mathematically inclined, refer to the regulator’s approved tariff bands (see inside) to see how much they should actually be paying.
Ms Graham was behind a separate class action which resulted in the claimants, all EU nationals, eventually being refunded after they were initially charged more than their Maltese neighbours due to having ‘A’ on their residency card.
She has set up a Facebook group which is bringing together consumers who are allegedly being “cheated of hundreds of euros”.
Some have already asked ARMS to recalculate their bills, with one particular customer having his bill reduced by more than €600.
The customers will be joining the fight already taken up by Darren Cordina and Melvin Polidano who challenged the authorities over what they claim is a breach of EU directives. The directives call for the calculation of bills to be based on actual annual consumption and a refund given if the customer has overpaid.
John Vassallo, a former ambassador of Malta to the EU, also said he will be taking Enemalta to court, claiming several breaches of European law.
The Consumers’ Association Malta has meanwhile warned that consumers are being cheated out of lower tariffs due to the way the unit cost is being calculated.
Fears that customers are overpaying on electricity due to the billing method were recently flagged up on social networks, as people started receiving more frequent bills.
Economist Marie Briguglio, who has been very vocal on social media about the issue, has insisted that billing frequency matters.
According to legislation, for every kWh of the first 2,000kWh consumed in one year, residents should be charged 10.47c, while they pay 12.98c for every kWh of the next 4,000kWh, 16.07c per unit on the next 4,000kWh, and so on. However, ARMS splits this allocation among the number of actual bills that a consumer receives in one year. This means that if a residence is billed every two months, the first 2,000 units are split between six bills, amounting to an allocation of 333 units per bill at 10.47c per unit.
If a residence consumes fewer than 333 units in a two-month billing period, the remaining units at this cheaper rate are not brought forward in the subsequent bills. The allocation is lost and cannot be used in the subsequent months. If, in the following two months, a residence consumes more than 333 units, it will be charged higher rates from the 334th unit onwards. This means residents are being cheated out of paying the lower rates for the full allocation of 2,000 units.
Ms Graham said one woman realised something was wrong when when she received a €1,700 bill, but when she inputted the data on ARMS’ own online calculator, the amount totalled only €650.
She had received a bill for the period October until April of this year. However, her consumption of 4,500 units for these six months was lumped into a two-month period, thereby incurring the highest tariff rates. So despite stating that the consumption period lasted from October until April, the same bill listed the billing period from February to April.
Another customer received a similar four-month bill which blatantly shows that she was charged for zero units for the first two months, bulking all her consumption into the following two months.
Her bill, also totalling around €1,700 for water and electricity and supposedly covering December until April, lists zero units until February, cramming more than 4,000 electricity units in March and April.
The group can be contacted on the Facebook page called ‘Up in Arms Class Action’.
|Bands||Cumulative Comsumption (kWh)||Consumption Tariff incl. VAT (€)|
|Band 1||0 – 2000||0.1047|
|Band 2||2001 – 6000||0.1298|
|Band 3||6001 – 10000||0.1607|
|Band 4||10001 – 20000||0.342|
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