TODAY’S – Consumers claim electricity repayment after court ruling

Consumers claim electricity repayment after court rulingTurkish electricity subscribers have been rushing to distributors nationwide to be reimbursed for electricity they have not used but have been charged for over the last 10 years in several southeastern provinces following a recent court decision ordering companies to pay back fees.The Supreme Court of Appeals issued a verdict to one company on Dec.

17 for the reimbursement of money that has been added to the bills of paying customers to compensate the company for illegally consumed electricity over the last 10 years. The decision came after an electricity subscriber in the southern province of Mersin complained about the payments.

Though the court had already made a preliminary decision in favor of the complainant, the electricity distributing company objected to the ruling. Nonetheless, the final decision did not change and the court ordered the distributor to return the money to the consumer that it has been charging for the last 10 years.

Following this development, consumers throughout the country have started applying to regional offices of distributors in order to reclaim the amount they paid for othersand#39 illegal usage of electricity. According to national media outlets, people gathered in long queues in front of offices in some provinces, such as Kayseri.

In order to reclaim the illegal usage costs, consumers need to obtain a receipt from their distributor showing the amount of money they paid over the last 10 years and deliver it to the Arbitration Committees for Consumer Problems of their district governorand#39soffices.There are nearly 37 million electricity subscribers registered with energy companies in Turkey.

Their annual electricity payments account for approximately TL 70 billion. Energy pundits say that for this year alone the amount of money that electricity subscribers may reclaim after the recent court decision could total between TL 5 and 6 million.

Meanwhile, Energy and Natural Resources Minister Taner YIldIz commented on the issue on Tuesday, signaling a new amendment to the electricity market law in January. Responding to a question from a journalist, YIldIz underlined that only personal applications would result in repayments, implying that the court ruling would not apply to all electricity consumers.

The ministerand#39s statement raised concerns over whether the amendment will yield a result to the detriment of consumers, as happened during a recent amendment to the banking law regarding service fees of credit cards.Speaking to Todayand#39s Zaman on Wednesday, Mehmet Bulent Deniz, chair of the Federation of Consumers Unions (TBF), argued that as a federation they have been hearing unconfirmed news that electricity companies have been putting pressure on the government for an amendment since the Supreme Court of Appealsand#39 verdict.

Noting that service fees that had been charged by lenders have been legalized after a recent amendment to the banking law, Deniz believes that a similar scenario may be seen in this case. Consumer Rights Association (THD) President Turhan akar also spoke to the newspaper stressing that it would be a scandal if the amendment YIldIz mentioned was introduced, making it legal for consumers to be charged for electricity they did not consume.

The long-lasting illegal electricity usage problem of Turkey was brought up once again during last yearand#39s major corruption probe that was made public Dec. 17 and 25.

In a voice recording Abdullah Tivnikli, one of the partners in Dicle Electric Distribution AI (DEDAI) and a businessman who was taken into custody as part of the investigations, reportedly asks Ibrahim KalIn, who was the Prime Ministry deputy undersecretary at the time, for the government to reimburse his company for unpaid electricity bills. DEDAI supplies electricity to the southeastern provinces of DiyarbakIr, IanlIurfa, Mardin, Batman, Siirt and IIrnak, where 71.

4 percent of the population uses electricity illegally.

SOURCE: Today’s Zaman