The Electricity Authority of Cyprus says gaps in legislation governing the free energy market enables major consumers to switch provider, leaving behind thousands in unpaid bills.
In comments to the Financial Mirror, EAC spokesperson Christina Papadopoulou said the authority has seen major clients switch providers without settling their last bill.
“We are concerned as we are witnessing the first signs of a phenomenon authorities in Greece saw when the market was liberated, with ‘energy tourists’ hopping from one provider to another, leaving behind millions in unpaid bills,” said Papadopoulou.
When asked, Papadopoulou could not quantify the number of clients nor the total amount of money the authority has been ‘cheated’ from, as the utility is still trying to identify which customers have no intention of paying.
She said the EAC had spotted early on weaknesses in the regulations of the free market that would allow industrial consumers to switch providers without paying bills, cheating the system and providers out of potentially millions.
“In the context of the public consultation that ended on 20/1/2023, on the draft regulatory decision on the methodology of mass change of supplier, EAC had reported phenomena of some large industrial consumers leaving the authority for a private provider, leaving unpaid bills.
“If the regulatory framework is not amended, then a number of industrial consumers, and potentially households in the future, will be able to strategically switch providers when they feel like it, without paying their bill,” said Papadopoulou.
EAC is preparing to take legal action against consumers who have left without settling their bills, but “this could take years, while the authority dishes out thousands of euros for legal expenses”.
“As things stand, the EAC is the victim of gaps in the regulatory framework, but in the coming years, we are certain that private providers will also be affected”.
The draft regulatory framework for residential consumers allows households to group together and claim better pricing from another provider.
According to Papadopoulou, the EAC wants the Cyprus Energy Regulatory Authority, overseeing the transition to a free market, to introduce a clause that no client can leave a provider without first paying off any outstanding balance.
“Consumers should be asked to present a letter of consent from the previous provider, confirming that the client has paid their dues.”
Papadopoulou said that to move to a private provider; consumers must install smart meters known as Seasonal Time of Day (SToD) Meters.
These meters provide real-time data on consumption, as they measure it every thirty minutes.
EAC has placed large orders for SToD metres to replace all existing ones, allowing customers to move to a private provider.