Who is entitled to discounted electricity?
It is imperative that the Electric Power Corporation (EPC) and the Office of the Regulator shed some light on what remains a grey area when it comes to classifying an electricity metre as domestic or non- domestic.
The Samoa Observer ran two stories on two consecutive days with the EPC boss Faumui Tauiliili Toimoana clarifying the confusion regarding the metres and how they classify which is a non-domestic one and which is a domestic one.
Even if you have a small shop operating from home, that is classified as non-domestic. The 20 per cent discount has been removed for businesses, government offices and state owned enterprises. Some companies are feeling the pinch with some saying they are almost paying three times in bills now.
According to the current status, only domestic consumers which means only homes are entitled to the discount. Now this is where the black and white mix and become grey.
There are many residential properties which are owned by companies and as such the cashpower metre is registered under the company. As of November 1, 2023, all these tenants who are occupying these residential properties are now classified as non-domestic users and charged at the same rate of a commercial business. They are paying more for electricity.
The tenants are residing in these properties and using them as homes however they are not classified as domestic users even though these are homes.
If such is the case, does this mean that everyone who owns a rental property in Samoa would have to convert to the classification of a non-domestic user and their tenants being subjected to paying commercial rates. After all, a rental property is a form of business through which the owner gets financial gains and therefore should be classified as a non-domestic user.
On the other side of the coin, the tenant who just leases the property as a home, his domicile, he or she is now being subjected to paying power bills at the same rate as commercial companies. The tenant’s argument is that he or she is using the property as a home and does not indulge in activity that is commercial in any nature and therefore, he or she should be a domestic user.
Which is which? This particular situation has to be defined because this will affect the pockets of thousands of Samoans who are renting homes. Now the question is, whose task would be to define this and clear the confusion? Is it the EPC, the Office of the Regulator, the Ministry responsible or the Cabinet?
It was an election promise from the current Government that power bills would be discounted by 20 per cent and they did keep their promise. However, as the operations cost of the EPC started rocketing and the power providers started recording losses, the Government offices and state-owned enterprises had the discounts revoked and this was followed by the discount being taken from commercial companies businesses.
According to the Cabinet decision, only domestic users have their power bills discounted. The EPC and the Government are being urged to clarify this issue of tenants in rental properties which belong to commercial businesses. At the end of the day, a residential tenant in any case whether renting a property owned by an individual or a commercial business is only using it as a home.
EPC boss Faamui has urged domestic power consumers affected by the removal of the 20 per cent power bill reduction to switch to the domestic category. However, the commercial businesses who own rental properties are at a loggerhead with the EPC on this one, as their requests are not being approved.
EPC has said consumers who registered under the non-domestic consumer category are former business owners and he believes their lack of understanding is causing the confusion.
"Again, if that's the case then they should refer to the person who registered their permits, the landlord or whoever owns the apartment whether they categorized it under domestic or non-domestic," Faumui said. "If it's domestic then they still get 20 per cent off but if it's non-domestic then it's the opposite.
"That's why we advise them to switch their categories to domestic so they can still get their 20 per cent off and of course, we carry out our surveys when they register or switch to confirm whether it's a business or not."
EPC and the Government cannot sit on the fence on this one and treat normal people differently where some have to pay a higher price to live in Samoa because of the registration. Can someone fix this please?
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