The Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) has recently issued new guidelines as part of their 2023 Customer Protection Regulations, which stipulate that customers are given 12 days to settle their electricity bills, failing which their power supply could be disconnected.
Connection and Metering Regulations
The NERC guidelines entail rules concerning electricity connections and meter readings. According to these rules, customers seeking a new connection are responsible for providing all connection materials as per the standards outlined by their distribution company. This company, in turn, must facilitate the connection from the point of supply to the metering point within 48 hours.
“The distribution company will provide the meter and metering accessories for the connection to ensure proper billing.”
Furthermore, customers will not be charged for surveying, inspection, testing, and commission of the electricity supply to their premises. Nevertheless, the distribution company retains the right to deny a connection should the customer fail to provide proper identification or refuse to pay a requested security deposit.
Disconnection Policies for Non-payment
The newly implemented rules necessitate a specific payment date for electricity bills, which must be clearly indicated on the bill itself. The bill can be delivered physically, by email, or text message. Customers are given 10 days from the delivery of the bill to make their payment.
“The period between the payment date and the date of scheduled disconnection for nonpayment should not be less than 2 working days.”
The NERC guidelines do make allowances for special cases. If a customer has an existing payment arrangement with the distribution company or if a life-support system is in use, disconnection can’t occur. In cases where the electricity supply is disconnected in these scenarios, the distribution company must compensate the customer with energy credits for each day of disconnection.
Final Meter Reading Upon Relocation
NERC also stipulates that a final meter reading should be taken if a prepaid meter customer is relocating. This is to ensure there are no outstanding payments. If access to the meter is hindered due to the customer, the distribution company has the right to disconnect the supply and issue a final bill. The responsibility for debt payment lies with the customer, and the distribution company can recover the debt from the customer.
“The debt should not be transferred to a new occupant if the defaulting customer relocates.”
Important Points to Note
In April 2023, NERC released an electricity service charter that provides additional customer protections. All electricity consumers who have not yet been metered have the right to transparent billing and must be billed based on capped estimates.
The charter also notes that unmetered consumers must receive advance notice of any disconnection plans. Such customers also have the right to raise complaints about their electricity bills, and distribution companies must investigate these complaints.
“Distribution companies should also refund consumers who have been overbilled.”
These newly implemented guidelines reflect NERC’s continuous efforts to balance the interests of both electricity distribution companies and consumers, fostering a more reliable and efficient power sector in Nigeria.