It’s been over a year since people were up in arms after noticing that changes to the ARMS billing system meant they were effectively being charged higher electricity bills for their consumption.
Changes appear to have failed to materialise despite Energy Minister Joe Mizzi announcing that an extensive study into the issue at ARMS was at an advanced stage last October.
Meanwhile, a ministry spokesperson skirted questions surrounding the results of the study and what changes will be made, merely saying that the current system was in place in previous administration and was according both national and EU law.
“The only changes to utility bills during the last 10 years were the increase in tariffs by the Nationalist administrations before 2013, and the reduction of 25% by a Labour administration for all families and businesses.”
However, with contentious issues surrounding quota rationing or the two-month billing system yet to be addressed, serious questions have to be asked whether a reform will ever happen.
In fact, a post on social media recently detailed how one person was effectively being charged double for what they should pay. The post itself was even inundated with comments of people across the island still experiencing the same thing.
“They steal from us every day,” one user wrote.
What is the ARMS issue all about?
Last year, issues were raised on ARMS billing more frequently, resulting in higher bills, with confusion surrounding the different tariffs causing particular confusion.
The principle behind the different tariffs, which are charged per household and not per person, is that the more you consume, the more you pay.
This has been in place since a legal notice was introduced in 2009, and gives ARMS leeway to bill people on a pro rata basis (yearly, monthly, weekly, etc).
However, due to quota-rationing more and more households are now getting billed every two months and, instead of being allowed to progress through their bands throughout the year, they are having their bands ‘rationed out’ every two months.
This means that many households are being forced to pay for electricity at the higher band rates when their consumption spikes for two months, even when their annual consumption isn’t high enough to reach those rates.
A class action lawsuit has since been filed.
Some have called for the bills to be issued every six months so that high consumption may be offset by low consumption, resulting in a fairer rationing of the quotas, while others say that if ARMS carries out a reconciliation exercise at the end of the year based on annual consumption, it could rebate customers for any overpayment.