The National Markets and Competition Commission (CNMC) clarifies that consumers affected by the chaos in electricity billing, which has caused delays in the issuance of millions of bills since July, “have the right to split the payment” in monthly payments for as many months as they have been without receiving the invoice.
In July, the new system of hourly invoicing by sections came into force and since then several electricity distributors are not sending the data of their clients’ consumption readings to the marketers. This situation, recalls the CNMC, impacts the marketers, who cannot issue the final invoices, and their clients, who accumulate several months without paying.
The agency recalls that “consumers have the right to split the payment of the amount owed in as many months as they have been without receiving the invoice”. And he stresses that “marketers must make an effort so that the consumer is aware of this right and provide the means for him to request the fractionation.”
The CNMC has approved an Agreement by which it answers queries regarding the absence or delays in billing by distributors or marketers that it has been analyzing for months, after being warned “of possible irregularities that have been occurring by some distributors” in terms of billing and metering.
The problems have occurred because “certain distributors” that the body does not identify have not sent the marketers the readings corresponding to the consumption of each client (that is, of each supply point). “Since they do not have the consumption data, the affected marketers have not been able to issue the final invoices to their clients with all the amounts.”
In these months, in which electricity prices in the wholesale market have broken all records, the CNMC “has analyzed numerous queries and claims from Autonomous Communities, marketers, associations of marketers, consumers, consumer associations, energy advisors and of the Ombudsman, related to customers who had not received their electricity bills for several months”.
In many cases, “consumers showed great concern about the increase in the debt contracted with their electricity company and the economic impossibility of making payments once the situation normalized.” The body has also analyzed the behavior of the distributors involved in these problems “to know the impact on the rights of the consumer against the marketer, and on the rights of the marketer against the distributor. All this, without prejudice to the possible actions that can be addressed in the sanctioning field, in accordance with the powers of the CNMC”.
Regarding the impact on consumer rights, the CNMC states in its Agreement that when the distributor is responsible for the delay or failure to issue invoices, as occurs with errors in the metering equipment (meter) or those of an administrative nature , “the consumer has the right to split the payment of the debt into as many monthly bills as months without receiving the bill, as stated in the regulations, specifically Royal Decree 1955/2000, of December 1”. This was warned by the Facua consumer association last november.
“They must try”
The body recalls “the impact that an accumulated billing of arrears can have on the consumer (among whom there may be vulnerable consumers), if it is not accompanied by the apportionment measure”. More “taking into account the current context of rising electricity prices in the markets.”
The Commission also recalls that the marketer, who is the one who bills the amounts based on the distributor’s consumption data, must offer the customer the possibility of deferring payment. To do this, you must put all the means at your disposal and promote that it request the installment of the debt in monthly installments if you wish. “The marketers must make an effort so that the consumer is aware of this right and facilitate the means for him to request the fractionation.”
“Once the problem that prevents them from invoicing normally has been solved, marketers must avoid charging any amount without prior notice to their clients and make sure that they have received the notice and have understood its terms,” the agency specifies.
Regarding the impact that delays in billing by distributors have on marketers, in a context of record prices in the wholesale market that is compromising the financial situation of many small companies, “the situation would be generating financial tensions, especially in the case of small marketers”, acknowledges the CNMC.
The organization recalls that the marketers deal daily with energy purchases in the wholesale market for their customers’ consumption, “but they cannot bill them because they do not have the toll and charge readings issued by the distributor. In addition, once the situation is regularized , the fractionation of the payment to the client, supposes a new delay in their collections”. The agency recalls that it is carrying out other actions in relation to the invoicing and payment of the marketers to the distributors to alleviate this situation and free them from charges.