Energy consumers have rights, responsibilities and remedies- ZERA

Energy consumers have rights, responsibilities and remedies- ZERA

17 May 2021

By Takudzwa Chakwana

HARARE: Gogo Raiza (not her real name) of Tafara in Harare is a troubled soul. Every time she sees a Zimbabwe Electricity Transmission and Distribution Company (ZETDC) branded vehicle, her heart skips.

She is on an electricity post-paid metre and her monthly estimated bill is hovering around ZWL$7,000, a figure she is struggling to clear.

She has been paying ZWL $3,000 per month and has since stopped using electricity for cooking.

“I am paying ZWL3,000 per month for that is what I can afford. There is no way I could have used electricity worth ZWL7 000 in a month”, she said during a consumer engagement meeting held in Mabvuku.

The engagement was organized by the Zimbabwe Energy Regulatory Authority (ZERA) in partnership with Consumer Council of Zimbabwe and Harare Residents Trust.

Gogo Raiza’s complaint was echoed by several residents of Mabvuku and Tafara who attended the consumer engagement meeting held last week.

The Zimbabwe Electricity Transmission and Distribution Company (ZETDC) representative, Eng. Mahlanzi, acknowledged during the meeting that physical meter reading was scaled down due to the Covid19 induced lockdown in March 2020.

He urged consumers to record the consumption units on their meters and present them to the billing offices every month for adjustment.

Residents were also urged to consider buying prepaid meters which gives them power to control their consumption rate and pattern.

Eng. Norbert Matarutse, the ZERA Consumer Services Manager said electricity billing issues constitute 7% of complaints received by the Energy Regulator every month.

“Every month, the Authority receives on average about 12 (7%) complaints related to electricity billing from consumers across the country”, said Eng. Matarutse during the engagement.

“We attribute these numbers to lack awareness on the part of consumers. The power utility, ZETDC,  is expected to educate consumers on bill management. This is one of the reasons why ZERA is on countrywide stakeholder engagements to educate consumers on their rights, responsibilities and available remedies on energy related issues”, he said.

ZERA is empowered by the Electricity Act of 2002 section 4 (2c) to establish appropriate consumer rights and obligations regarding the provision and use of electricity services.

ZERA has been engaging consumers through their various associations via WhatsApp platforms since the onset of Covid19 restrictions that curtailed physical engagements. Unfortunately, the virtual platforms have their pros and cons with the biggest being the digital divide.

“Not all consumers can afford to spend some time on WhatsApp due to the cost of data. Besides, the elderly consumers prefer one on one engagement with detailed clarification being proffered”, said Eng. Matarutse.

The Energy Regulator is set to roll out physical engagements, while adhering to COVID 19 guidelines, across the country.

“We will be undertaking physical engagements in Chipinge, Checheche and Chiredzi in the coming weeks and these will be complemented by the usual WhatsApp consumer dialogues. We do not want to leave anyone behind. It is, after all, every consumer’s right to be informed and educated on energy related issues”, said Eng. Matarutse. 

Before the outbreak of Covid19 in 2020, ZERA had convened consumer engagements in Cowdry Park in Bulawayo, Budirio, Mufakose and Kuwadzana in Harare, Dangamvura in Mutare among others.

//ENDS

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