New NERC Guidelines Grant Customers 12-day Grace Period for Electricity Bill Payment or Face Disconnection
The Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) recently released the 2023 Customer Protection Regulations, introducing new guidelines that extend the grace period for electricity bill payment to 12 days.
Failure to meet the payment deadline, however, could result in disconnection of power supply.
Connection and Metering Regulations
Under these new rules, individuals applying for a new electricity connection are required to furnish all necessary connection materials in accordance with their distribution company’s standards. The responsibility of the distribution company is to ensure the connection is made from the supply point to the metering point within 48 hours.
“The distribution company will provide the meter and metering accessories for the connection to ensure proper billing.”
Moreover, consumers will not be subjected to charges for surveying, inspection, testing, and commissioning of the electricity supply. It should be noted, however, that the distribution company reserves the right to decline a connection request if a customer fails to provide valid identification or refuses to pay the requested security deposit.
Disconnection Policies for Non-payment
The new guidelines dictate a clear payment date for electricity bills, which must be explicitly stated on the bill. Bills can be delivered via physical mail, email, or text message. Customers have a 10-day window from the date of bill receipt to complete payment.
“The period between the payment date and the date of scheduled disconnection for nonpayment should not be less than 2 working days.”
Special circumstances are recognized under these guidelines. In cases where a customer has a payment arrangement in place with the distribution company or where a life-support system is being used, disconnection is not allowed. Should disconnection occur in such instances, the distribution company is obligated to compensate the customer with energy credits for each day of disconnection.
Final Meter Reading Upon Relocation
In the event a prepaid meter customer is moving, NERC stipulates that a final meter reading should be taken to ensure no outstanding payments are due.
If meter access is restricted due to the customer, the distribution company is permitted to disconnect the supply and provide a final bill. Debt repayment responsibility lies solely with the customer, and the distribution company can pursue debt recovery from the customer.
“The debt should not be transferred to a new occupant if the defaulting customer relocates.”
Important Points to Note
NERC’s Electricity Service Charter, launched in April 2023, offers additional protections for electricity consumers. Unmetered consumers, or those who have not yet been metered, are entitled to transparent billing and should be billed based on capped estimates.
The Charter also highlights the rights of unmetered consumers, including the right to receive advance notice of any disconnection plans. These consumers are also entitled to lodge complaints about their electricity bills, which must be investigated by the distribution companies.
“Distribution companies should also refund consumers who have been overbilled.”
These recently implemented guidelines by NERC reflect the commission’s ongoing commitment to strike a balance between the interests of both electricity distribution companies and consumers, with the aim of promoting a more reliable and efficient power sector in Nigeria.