The Malta Independent 8 December 2022, Thursday
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Updated: PN starts process to file class action lawsuit over utility bills

Giuseppe Attard Tuesday, 20 September 2022, 16:43 Last update: about 4 months ago

Nationalist Party spokespersons Mark Anthony Sammut (Energy and enterprise) and Ryan Callus (Public works and infrastructure) announced that the PN would be gathering participants in order to file a class action law suit over utility bills issued by Automated Revenue Management Services Ltd's (ARMS).

A court judgement earlier this year  found that a billing method used by ARMS was resulting in the illegal over-charging of consumers.

In 2018 the PN had opened an investigation into the excess charges.

Then, the PN had asked those affected to head to the PN HQ to check the bills, and the party found a substantial number of people who were billed for more than they actually owed.

Sammut said that "this was the first indicator, and the second one came when the auditor's investigation found that €6.5 million a year extra were being paid due to the faulty mechanism. This amounts to about €50 million over the course of 8 years," he said.

Sammut added that the third confirmation that "daylight robbery" took place through utility bills was the court hearing "which stated that an injustice was occurring with the people, and the money owed to them should be given."

"Four years ago, former Prime Minister Joseph Muscat had admitted to this fault, but nothing was ever done in this regard and year after year the government does not commit to giving back to the people what is theirs," Sammut said.

The PN is therefore moving forward with a class action lawsuit, as it's the only way people can get their money back, he said. "The people's only options are to file their own lawsuits, paying their own expenses or they can join us and together have a better chance of reaching their aim."

Callus said that although it was the PN in government that introduced the law, "it was a labour government who used the wrong mechanism. The government can say that we introduced the law, but the law is fine, the mechanism needs amending."

He went on to add that although the government recognises that the mechanism is faulty, continuing to implement it is robbery.

Callus said that throughout the previous few years, they had talked to various regulators "who are supposed to be independent and there to look after the interests of the people, but they did nothing to remedy the situation."

"The situation is clear, on one hand you have the government that is fighting this action together with the regulators who are doing nothing about it, and on the other hand the PN is working in the absence of these entities as it is our obligation to look out for the people," Callus said.

The Malta Independent then asked if the party risked seeing a backfiring of the initiative since electricity subsidies given by the government since the start of the war in Ukraine outweigh the added costs the PN is saying people and businesses are paying now.

Sammut said that the subsidies are a very important cushion in the realty we find ourselves today, but "they do not make up for the years of robbery which the government committed fully knowing what was going on."

"We also have to look to the future and seek remedies to lessen the impact the subsidies will have on our economy once the period of inflation is over. They are needed and very important at the moment, but who will pay the price in the future?"

PL statement

In reaction, the Labour Party said the PN isn't credible when speaking about energy.

"Before anything, the PN is saying it is going to court over a billing system that was introduced through a legal notice it implemented when it was in government in 2009. It is going to be this government that, as was promised in the budget, will change this, with the results of this change being implemented with effect from 1 January this year. The PN spokespersons of today are the same spokespersons who defended the PN's high price policies. They are on record defending the policy of placing the burden on the people in the last PN government."

The PL said Bernard Grech is also on record saying that prices need to change with international oil prices.

"The Maltese know that this government not only lowered energy prices, but implemented policies that left stability at a time when families in other EU countries are burdened with record electricity and fuel prices."

"If this investment wasn't made, families would be spending around €1,700 more on energy costs each year."


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