PN insists on backdating utility bill refunds to 2014, but Labour MPs vote no

Government overhauled the water and electricity billing system, but the new system only applies to consumption beginning January 2022

Members of the Nationalist Party filed a private member’s motion on Monday to amend a legal notice concerning the overbilling of water and electricity.

Earlier this year, Energy Minister Miriam Dalli announced a new utility billing system to correct an anomaly that saw some consumers paying at the higher bands despite a yearly allocation of cheap units.

The legal changes were announced in October, but the notice specified that the rules will apply retrospectively to 1 January 2022.

The Nationalist Party filed this motion arguing that the rules should be backdated to 2014, which is when the original billing system was introduced.

In parliament on Monday, Opposition leader Bernard Grech insisted that government should reimburse all funds received from overcharging, from 2014 till today.

He pointed to a report by the National Audit Office published last year which confirmed that customers were being overcharged on their water and electricity bills.

He added that the Labour government had promised to address this issue by 2019.

Earlier on Monday, the Nationalist Party issued a statement threatening to institute a class action lawsuit in court for the authorities to reimburse all ‘stolen’ funds since 2014, unless government commits to doing so itself.

It said that this motion was government’s last chance to correct the situation. However, the motion did not pass in parliament as government MPs voted against.

Energy Minister Miriam Dalli said that the Nationalist Party was being dishonest in their claims, pointing out that it was the Nationalist government that introduced the 2009 legal notice that led to anomalies in the billing system.

“Today we’re seeing the same people who, when Lawrence Gonzi was saying that he’d vote wholeheartedly to raise utility bills, were clapping with him.”

She said that the Nationalist government had raised utility bills twice during the international financial crisis of 2008. “The forced a surcharge on us in 2008 and they raised tariffs in 2010.”

She added that the Auditor General had even confirmed that utility bills were being calculated “in the same way they were always being calculated”.