The introduction of a set of consumer rights and obligations by the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC), an agency established by the Electric Power Sector Reform (EPSR) Act 2005, is one of the positive developments in the power sector in recent times. The rules are designed to curb the excesses of electricity operators and to ensure they provide quality service to customers.
Unfortunately, many electricity consumers are not aware of these rights thus allowing the DisCos to entrench their abusive practices against them. It is therefore pertinent for consumers to know what their rights are under the law so that they can effectively insist on them in their dealings with their service providers. Below is an overview of the rights and obligations set out by NERC.
All customers have a right to electricity supply in a safe and reliable manner
This presupposes that service providers are under obligation to ensure their services or equipment do not endanger the safety, health, life and property of consumers.
All customers have a right to a properly installed and functional meter Electricity consumers are entitled to a functional meter installed in their property. Initially, the electricity distribution companies (DisCos) were mandated to endure consumers were metered. However, with the recent licensing of Meter Asset Providers (MAP), consumers are required to bear the financial burden of procuring the prepaid meters from the meter vendors whose responsibility is to fund, procure and install meters on behalf of the DisCo in their coverage area.
All new electricity connection must be done strictly based on metering before connection. That is, no new customer should be connected by a DisCo without a meter first being installed at the premises.
All customers have a right to transparent electricity billing Electricity consumers’ bills should be based on actual energy consumed, not estimated billing. But where estimated billing is to be applied, it should not exceed what a customer could possibly have consumed within the billing period. For instance, the estimates for unmetered customers must be reasonable when compared with metered customers occupying similar property or based on load assessment of their premises. In the case of customers whose meters are faulty, the estimated usage should be based on the property’s previous usage pattern.
All Un-metered customers should be issued with electricity bills strictly based on NERC’s estimated billing methodology For customers who are unmetered, their billing should not be done arbitrarily but must follow NERC’s estimated billing methodology.
Customers have the right to contest any electricity bill. It is within the right of any electricity consumer to contest any bill they believe does not reflect their consumption. They can request a review of their bill in which case the DisCo will have to carry out a load assessment at the billing address to determine how the bill should be adjusted if necessary.
Any un-metered customer who is disputing his or her estimated bill has the right not to pay the disputed bill, but pay only the last undisputed bill as the contested bill goes through the dispute resolution process of NERC. When a bill is in dispute, a customer is not obligated to pay the amount on it. He can pay the amount on the last undisputed bill until the dispute is resolved.
All customers have a right to refund when over-billed DisCos are required to refund excess money paid by customers where it has been proven that they were over-billed. Such refunds may not be made in cash but credited into the customers’ accounts for subsequent payments.
All customers have a right to be properly informed and educated on electricity service. The service providers are obligated to provide consumers with information on their services as required, particularly when such has a direct impact on the consumers. They should not be left in the dark on what is going on.
It is the customer’s right to be notified in writing ahead of disconnection of electricity service by the DisCo serving the customer in line with NERC’s guidelines DisCos rarely comply with this guideline because consumers do not insist on their rights by taking appropriate steps to seek redress. Disconnections are done arbitrarily and this is wrong. A customer who is disconnected without a written notice can sue the service provider or file a complaint with NERC. If convicted, the DisCo will be made to pay compensation to the affected customer.
customers have a right to file complaints and to the prompt investigation of
Any aggrieved customer has a right to file a complaint which should be investigated within 15 working days from the date the complaint was submitted. Unfortunately, most consumers merely grumble but never file complaints when their rights are violated.
All complaints on electricity supply and other billing issues are to be sent to the nearest business unit of the DisCo serving the customer. Electricity customers can file a complaint at the business unit of the service provider. But when a complaint is not satisfactorily addressed, the customer has a right to escalate such to the NERC Forum Office within the coverage area of the DisCo. To know the NERC Forum Office nearest to you,
Customers have the right to appeal the decision of the NERC Forum Office by writing a petition to the Commission. Electricity consumers whose cases have been determined by NERC Forum Office can appeal to the Commission itself if they are not satisfied with the forum’s decision.
It is not the responsibility of electricity customer or community to buy, replace or repair electricity transformers, poles and related equipment used in the supply of electricity. Transformers, poles and related equipment used in the supply of electricity belong to the DisCos and should, therefore, take responsibility for their supply, maintenance, repair, or replacement. It is not the responsibility of the customer or community. However, with the recent licensing of Meter Assets Providers (MAP) across the country, consumers are required to pay for prepaid meters.
Obligations of Electricity Consumers
Rights come with responsibilities. For consumers to exercise the above rights, they must understand and comply with the obligations of electricity consumers as issued by NERC as below.
- Pay bills for electricity consumed
- Provide requirements for connection as stipulated by NERC and DisCo
- Vigilant protection of electrical installations
- Cordiality towards electricity workers
- Customer compliance with the requirements of the Distribution code
- Pay for electricity used within the stipulated time frame
- Ensure receipt of monthly electricity bills if not on prepaid meters and lodge a complaint to the DisCo serving you should you not get your bills
- Ensure that metering and other electrical equipment within your premises belonging to the DisCo are not tampered with, or by-passed
- Notify the DisCo serving you of any tampering or bypass of electricity installations
- Notify the DisCo serving you of any outstanding electricity bill before moving into new premises