Faulty FEA Meters

15/04/2016 09:33

There is a possibility that you may have not tampered with your FEA meter but you have been issued with a letter claiming that you have an overdue amount for a faulty meter.

This would have left you feeling confused and frustrated when you do not know how the meter ended up being faulty.

In the case below, Mr. Jim was charged for meter tampering and upon a dispute, FEA advised him that the meter is faulty and he was still liable to pay.

Case Study

In April 2013, Mr. Jim received a letter from FEA advising him that he has an outstanding balance of $856.33 for the consumption period of 16th April 2007- 25th May 2009.

Mr. Jim was astonished to receive this letter and disputed the claims by FEA. It had taken FEA 6 years to detect meter tampering. When Mr. Jim took occupancy of the premises in 2005 the meter was connected by FEA and during this time meter readers did not take any notice or report that meter seals were missing or that the meter is faulty.

In May 2013, FEA informed Mr. Jim that the meter became faulty because it was tampered with by the previous occupant and account holder. This was not a case of meter tampering but of a faulty meter. During Mr. Jim’s occupancy, the meter was unable to accurately record consumption. However, FEA claimed that since Mr. Jim had benefitted from the faulty meter, he was required to pay $583.69.

The matter was brought to the Council’s attention as Mr. Jim did not comprehend the amount sought by FEA. After much debate, FEA provided Mr. Jim with a revised amount of $539.67.

FEA clarified that they calculated the new figure on the average historical consumption trend. The Authority provided the graph and bill calculation table for the reviewed amount.

In this case, Mr. Jim has been paying his bills in full and on a regular basis.  What the Council fails to understand is how FEA meter readers were not able to notice this during their monthly rounds. FEA accused this consumer of meter tampering when in actual fact the meter was faulty?

The Council also questions the current methodology and evidence used to determine whether the meter is faulty or has been tampered with by the consumers.

Another area of concern is the time taken for FEA to analyze faulty meters or meter tampering. In some cases, it has taken more than 6 years to identify meter faults or tampering despite taking meter readings every month.

The Council is typically concerned as FEA may have wrongfully penalized consumers for meter tampering in situations of faulty meters. Apparently, FEA conveniently bills a lump sum amount for consumers to pay irrespective of whether the meter has been tampered with or is faulty.

Unfortunately, the Electricity Act Cap. 180 allows FEA to bill consumers by calculating the average consumption for the period the meter was not correctly recording consumption. This is stipulated in Section 71(1) of the Electricity Regulations as follows: 

If a meter ceases to register, or is found to register so incorrectly that in the opinion of the person who has tested it at the testing station the extent of its error cannot be determined with reasonable accuracy, then, for the purpose of adjustment of the consumer's account under regulation 68 or 69, the correct quantity of energy consumed shall be calculated from the daily average quantity consumed in the last period of 3 months before the test during which the meter, in the opinion of the Authority or licensed supplier, can be reasonably believed to have been registering correctly.” 

The Council is urging the consumers to write to the Chief Inspector at FEA for any disputes in the assessment by FEA. However, they must write to the inspector within 3 months from the date of receipt of the assessment notice to appeal. It is significant to note that this assessment will be done internally and the final decision will be made by FEA who becomes the judge and jury at the same time.

 The Council would like to reiterate that the Electricity Act Cap. 180 are more producer oriented and not consumer oriented. No other independent body is engaged to verify FEA’s findings. Hence, the Council would like to call upon policymakers to review the Electricity Act in order to ensure that there is fairness and transparency in the said legislation.