Lebanon News

Khoury alleges generator conspiracy

A Consumer Protection Bureau employee issues a violation notice in Ain Saadeh, Tuesday, Oct. 2, 2018. (The Daily Star/Mohammad Azakir)

BEIRUT: Caretaker Economy Minister Raed Khoury Tuesday threatened to expose the municipalities he alleges are conspiring with electricity generator owners to prevent the ministry’s inspectors from doing their job.

“There are some municipalities that are conspiring with the generator owners, or benefiting in some ways, and they are treating the inspectors in an unsuitable way,” Khoury said in a televised news conference, warning if the municipalities continue not to cooperate with the inspectors as he has claimed, the ministry will expose them to the media.

“Inspectors [from the Economy Ministry’s Consumer Protection Bureau] would go to municipalities requesting help, or asking questions about violations, and the municipalities are not cooperating with them,” Khoury later told The Daily Star.

He said although most municipalities are cooperating with inspectors, there were several reports that some are not, hinting that this may be a result of certain municipalities benefiting from generator owners in exchange for covering up violations.

He declined to name any of the municipalities in question.

Jad Nahle, spokesperson for the Central Committee of Generator Owners in Lebanon, told The Daily Star the committee has no reports on the issue. “On the contrary, municipalities are asking the generator owners to follow the ministry’s decision [to install meters],” Nahle said.

“Municipalities are obliged to notify generator owners who are not complying with the decision,” Khoury said, noting if a generator owner refuses to install meters, the municipality can report the owner to the Economy Ministry, which will then issue a violation notice.

In Tuesday’s news conference, the minister said inspectors are set to continue monitoring meter installations and will be accompanied by the municipalities’ representatives and the Internal Security Forces.

He urged both electricity generator owners and subscribers to install meters “for the citizens’ sake,” noting that “installing meters all over Lebanon will save up to around $500 million.”

Khoury also discussed the circular released Monday by his ministry regarding deposits paid to generator owners. “There is no more paying in advance, and the deposit will be returned to the subscriber once the subscription is stopped,” Khoury explained.

The circular said: “Generator owners have the right to take a one-time deposit of LL100,000 [$67] for every 5-ampere subscription and LL175,000 for each 10-ampere subscription. If the subscriber wants to increase their power supply, they will pay LL75,000 for an additional 5 amperes.”

Subscribers should also be provided with a receipt for the deposit so they can be reimbursed if they decide to cancel the subscription, according to the circular.

Khoury explained Tuesday that the deposit ensures the rights of the generator owner in case the subscriber fails to pay the monthly bill, while the invoice given ensures the subscriber’s right of reimbursement in case of a subscription cancellation.

Khoury said the ministry had set the value of the deposit to protect the rights of both the subscribers and generator owners. The minister then called on the general prosecution and the ISF to act if a generator owner refused to install the meter and “commit to the laws set by the Economy Ministry, the Interior Ministry and the Energy Ministry.”

The Economy Ministry had released consumer protection guidelines Monday following the ministry’s decision earlier this year for generator owners to install meters and charge subscribers based on their consumption, rather than the flat rate they usually paid for a subscription.

The fees are to be collected based on each household’s consumption and the pricing set by the Energy Ministry, which was pegged at LL410 per kilowatt-hour.

The decision went into effect Oct. 1, after which the ministry began issuing violation notices for generator owners who had not installed the meters.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on October 10, 2018, on page 2.

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