[WATCH] Joe Mizzi non-committal on when ARMS utility billing review will be complete

The Energy Minister says the review of the electricity billing system should soon be ready, insisting that any anomalies will be addressed and that claims that consumers are being robbed are untrue

Energy Minister Joe Mizzi: No commitment yet on when the billing system review will be ready. (Photo: James Bianchi/MediaToday)
Energy Minister Joe Mizzi: No commitment yet on when the billing system review will be ready. (Photo: James Bianchi/MediaToday)
Joe Mizzi says billing system review on the way

A review of the electricity billing system is nearing completion, and will lead to any anomalies being addressed, Joe Mizzi said.

But the Energy Minister stopped short of giving a date for the exercise to be completed.

In August last year, Mizzi had said the review was in its final stages, but, when pressed for a date today on when the process would be finalised, the minister was non-committal.

"As I promised, we have heard and analysed every complaint and suggestion, and we are now in the final stages to pinpoint any anomalies and plan the way forward. We are not very far off, but this has required that a number of studies be undertaken," Mizzi said.

He emphasised that the problem with the utility bills calculations had been coming "since 2010 at least", and that they were related to the automatic billing system which was introduced that year.

"The issue which created problems came about after an investment in automatic readings, which had cost millions of euro. The idea was to issue bills every two months instead of six, which had been less ideal for consumers," he said.

He added that the two-month billing process had introduced a greater degree of efficiency and should have been put in place a long time ago.

"We are trying to tackle any anomaly, and I can assure you that everything has been examined, including what went wrong due to the mistakes made with the automatic consumption-reading system,” he said.

Pressed for a timeframe when consumers would see any inaccurate bills being addressed, Mizzi did not give a date. "What I can say is that in the coming months the solution to tackle the anomaly would have been found. But my principal interest is that things are done properly."

He also rejected claims by the Opposition that consumers were being robbed through bills which did not reflect their consumption.

"Claims that ARMS is robbing people through the utility bills are not fair, and if this were so, it means that it was also robbing consumers from 2010 to 2013, when the same billing system was in place," he said, insisting this was not the case.

Mizzi's comments come after the court ruled last week that a case, filed on behalf of two consumers, who are alleging that ARMS has been billing its consumers incorrectly by asking them to pay for their utilities on a pro rata basis calculated over the period of a year, is to continue.

READ ALSO: Judge to hear case over potential nationwide ARMS billing error

Lawyers for ARMS Ltd had argued that the court application was null because it contained several different and conflicting actions, but the First Hall of the Civil Court, presided by Judge Anna Felice, rejected their preliminary pleas and ordered that the case proceed on its merits.

The issue arose last year after consumers flagged that they were not benefitting from the number of yearly free units laid down in the law because the billing system was splitting these up on a two-monthly basis, ignoring any fluctuations in consumption.

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