ATHENS – Many unable to pay electricity bills that have nearly doubled – and could keep going up – Greek consumers are taking to filing complaints with the Regulatory Authority for Energy over adjustment clauses.
More than 1,000 have chosen that route, said Kathimerini, as the New Democracy government – facing elections in 2023 if not sooner – is scrambling to provide more aid while dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic.
The government has been aiding with small subsidies for six months but some households are getting bills as high as 1,100 euros ($1189) for two months if they used air conditioner inverters for heating.
Soaring inflation is raising prices across the board, including for food – which is taxed at 24 percent – and there’s worry in government circles, the paper said, that the problem will remain for a long period.
The state utility company Public Power Corporation (PPC) has in recent months seen expired arrears from bills rise 5 percent more than anticipated, despite discounts for regular-paying customers.
Most private power suppliers have seen a doubling (if not more) of overdue bill payments, the report said, adding that there’s been a doubling in the number of people asking to pay installments, usually reserved for one-time major bills, but the phenomenon seeing every bill unpayable for many.
The share of power consumers that pays after the 45 days from the bill’s issue expires has risen from 25 to 50 percent while the average time of bill payment has doubled from 45 days to three months.
“It is only a matter of time until payment delays transform into bad debts,” a private supplier representative not named told the newspaper, which would bring big losses to state coffers while it’s trying to accelerate an economic recovery.
The market is seeing the return of the so-called “energy tourism,” in which consumers keep jumping from utility to utility company without paying their previous bills, it was said.
Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis has acknowledged that many people are at their wit’s – and wallet’s – end and said the European Union should have a uniform policy to help, otherwise his government will act on its own, including mulling a ceiling on bills.
Nikos Androulakis, leader of center-left opposition party PASOK-KINAL, criticized the government for its energy policy in an interview with Radio Thessaloniki, calling for limit on adjustment clauses and electricity prices.
“Mitsotakis and (major opposition SYRIZA leader Alexis) Tsipras want a ceiling to the wholesale rates and this means a decision by Brussels … I ask for a ceiling on the retail price, which is a measure in the European Commission’s toolbox, and means a government decision tomorrow morning,” said Androulakis.