Large Protest Groups Against Electricity Authority Monopoly Form On Facebook
Two large protest groups against the monopolistic practices of the Electricity Authority of Cyprus (EAC) have formed on Facebook.com after consumers received bills in the hundreds of euros, often higher than their rents.
According to anecdotal information posted by members in the End Unfair Electricity of Cyprus Monopoly group, their bills range between 300-900 euros for the last two months, and most report a doubling or tripling of charges.
"With a lot of pain, anguish and struggle... I just paid my 900 euro bill..this is more than half our salary for a family of 4 :( How are we going to survive??," says one group member.
So far, the Facebook.com groups formed nine days ago include https://www.facebook.com/groups/endeacmonopoly/ and https://www.facebook.com/groups/oncevoiceagainsteac/
They have over 4000 members between them and are running petitions and discussing other ways to protest against the EAC's monopoly.
"The sheer number of people who are complaining is indicative that something is seriously wrong. In many cases this is not just about price hikes, these are people who actually cut down on their usage and found that their actual consumption had jumped up to ridiculous levels. Our usage is the equivalent of 2.5-3 households," according to one of the hundreds of posts.
Many believe that power surges or spikes may be hiking consumption because people who are normally very careful with their electricity usage have noticed their meters running far faster than usual. Some families have been forced to switch off their heating and wrap their children in coats and hats even whilst at home.
"Just checked my metre, already used 1040 units and another month to go yet, my calculations already used 300 euros and not had anything on hardly, this is a joke, my last bill 680," said one group member.
Complaints to the EAC are falling on deaf ears and mostly answered by unsatisfactory responses which include excuses like higher fuel costs due to the explosion next to Vasiliko power plant last July. One group member said that the EAC promised to send someone to check his meter but no one turned up.
The EAC is an effective monopoly which has often been accused of blocking real liberalisation of the energy market by refusing permission to alternative energy companies to connect to the grid and offer consumers different choices for their electricity supply. In addition, many renewable energy companies which could now be offering electricity to Cyprus consumers face overwhelming bureaucratic obstacles.
The outcry against the EAC's high prices peaked after the authority announced a five percent interest fee on late payments at the beginning of February. After an intervention from the MPs and the Cyprus Consumer's Union, the EAC's board of directors decided to suspend the surcharge.
Electricity prices have risen dramatically since the explosion at Mari naval base which all-but destroyed the Vassiliko power station that supplied 50 percent of the island's power. The EAC is now suffering the consequences of its own policy of slowing down or blocking alternative energy companies because it now faces the daunting task of meeting the demand for electricity on its own, a task it is clearly not able to manage according to the sheer number of complaints its service is generating.
In earlier comments on the issue, the EU's Representation in Cyprus said their experts are looking into this complex issue and that they would answer protest groups once they have a definitive way forward on the issue of the EAC's monopolistic practices.
Image: protestor banner on https://www.facebook.com/groups/endeacmonopoly/
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