The Malta Independent 18 June 2024, Tuesday
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TMID Editorial: ARMS - Robbing Peter to pay Paul

Saturday, 28 April 2018, 09:52 Last update: about 7 years ago

Many people in Malta and Gozo had rejoiced when the newly elected Labour government announced it would be making good on its promise to reduce water and electricity tariffs.

Then energy minister Konrad Mizzi had proudly said that just one year after electing Labour to power, people could breathe a sigh of relief and would no longer feel that familiar sense of anxiety upon opening the dreaded ARMS bill.

The electricity tariffs under the Lawrence Gonzi administration were prohibitively high for the middle-class, let alone those who struggled to make ends meet. In politics and governance, there is little more that could evoke such a show of unwavering support than announcing a reduction in the essential service of water and electricity.


While all this was going on, ARMS was in the process of replacing all old meters with the smart meters, meaning that meter readers no longer had to come on site and the readings could be taken remotely (at least for many of us).

This resulted in ARMS bills being issued every two months. For many, more frequent bills mean higher electricity bills. If you consume relatively less electricity than other households and are consistent in that consumption, you are likely not seeing higher electricity bills.

If, like many people, you consume more electricity during some parts of the year and less electricity during other parts of the year, this issue should interest you. When ARMS invoices consumers for shorter periods, say 60 days, it is also chopping up the electricity quotas per day. Different levels of consumption cost different amounts: the first 2,000 units are the cheapest; the next 4,000 units are slightly more expensive, and so on.

By chopping up the quotas per day, ARMS has made it very easy for its consumers to use up the cheap electricity very quickly, and move on to more expensive electricity. This is especially worrisome during the high consumption months, like December and January. Roughly, for a two month period, about 330 units of electricity at the cheapest rate are awarded.

330 units will not get you that far during the colder months of the year.

What happens is that once the cheaper electricity units are consumed, one moves on to the more expensive tariffs - 13 cents per unit, 16 cents, 35 cents and in some cases 60 cents.

What happens then is that consumers receive a hefty bill - right after the Christmas period - based on actual consumption, meaning they are not eligible for any form of rebate, even if they would not have yet consumed their full annual quota of 2,000 units priced at 10c5.

At the end of a calendar year, ARMS does not carry out a reconciliation exercise to make sure that consumers are charged the full units of consumption at their respective prices.

There have been increased calls on ARMS to either start billing less frequently or else reconcile the annual consumption of each household.

While some question the legality of the current practice, it is certainly an underhanded way for ARMS to bolster revenues off the back of hardworking people.

Is it fair that a family has to pay at much higher rates just because it happened to be unseasonably cold?

Is it fair that because the state billing company arbitrarily decided to start issuing invoices more frequently, many have to suffer higher bills while the state can continue to advertise its 'cheap' electricity rates?

Why has this system been adopted, and where is the added revenue going?



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