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EAC Threatens Customer With Meter Removal - For Not Using Electricity

The Electricity Authority of Cyprus (EAC) has threatened one of their customers with removing their meter because they do not use electricity, according to a letter sent from the EAC's office and published online via Facebook.com and other sources.

"It has emerged that in the last 12 months you have not consumed any electricity at all...It concerns the Authority considerably that this equipment is being unused to the detriment of the Authority and its other customers," says the letter written in Greek and dated February 2012.

It continues: The Authority has no other choice but to remove the equipment in two months from the date of this letter. Once the equipment is removed, it will only be reconnected by paying a fee and will be treated as a new application.

The letter has raised fresh outrage over the EAC's monopolistic practices, particularly after extremely high bills that are double or triple last year's were received by thousands of consumers.

In a statement on its website, the EAC said that its letter was an attempt to "protect both the owner and the Authority itself against theft of cash, electricity and electrical installations, adding that it will not cut off the electricity supply against the will of the owner due to low or zero use of electricity."

The EAC's statement has been met with skepticism by members of two large protest groups against the monopolistic practices of the EAC which recently formed on Facebook.com after consumers received bills in the hundreds of euros, often higher than their rents.

According to anecdotal information posted by members in the End Unfair Electricity of Cyprus Monopoly group, their bills range between 300-900 euros for the last two months, and most report a doubling or tripling of charges.

"With a lot of pain, anguish and struggle... I just paid my 900 euro bill..this is more than half our salary for a family of 4 :( How are we going to survive??," says one group member.

So far, the Facebook.com groups formed nine days ago include https://www.facebook.com/groups/endeacmonopoly/ and https://www.facebook.com/groups/oncevoiceagainsteac/

They have over 4000 members between them and are running petitions and discussing other ways to protest against the EAC's monopoly.

"The sheer number of people who are complaining is indicative that something is seriously wrong. In many cases this is not just about price hikes, these are people who actually cut down on their usage and found that their actual consumption had jumped up to ridiculous levels. Our usage is the equivalent of 2.5-3 households," according to one of the hundreds of posts.

Many believe that power surges or spikes may be hiking consumption because people who are normally very careful with their electricity usage have noticed their meters running far faster than usual. Some families have been forced to switch off their heating and wrap their children in coats and hats even whilst at home.

"Just checked my metre, already used 1040 units and another month to go yet, my calculations already used 300 euros and not had anything on hardly, this is a joke, my last bill 680," said one group member.

Complaints to the EAC are falling on deaf ears and mostly answered by unsatisfactory responses which include excuses like higher fuel costs due to the explosion next to Vasiliko power plant last July. One group member said that the EAC promised to send someone to check his meter but no one turned up.

De facto monopoly

The EAC is an effective monopoly which has often been accused of blocking real liberalisation of the energy market by refusing permission to alternative energy companies to connect to the grid and offer consumers different choices for their electricity supply. In addition, many renewable energy companies which could now be offering electricity to Cyprus consumers face overwhelming bureaucratic obstacles.

The outcry against the EAC's high prices peaked after the authority announced a five percent interest fee on late payments at the beginning of February. After an intervention from the MPs and the Cyprus Consumer's Union, the EAC's board of directors decided to suspend the surcharge.

Electricity prices have risen dramatically since the explosion at Mari naval base which all-but destroyed the Vassiliko power station that supplied 50 percent of the island's power. The EAC is now suffering the consequences of its own policy of slowing down or blocking alternative energy companies because it now faces the daunting task of meeting the demand for electricity on its own, a task it is clearly not able to manage according to the sheer number of complaints its service is generating.

In earlier comments on the issue, the EU's Representation in Cyprus said their experts are looking into this complex issue and that they would answer protest groups once they have a definitive way forward on the issue of the EAC's monopolistic practices.

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