A ministerial decision to let off debtors to the Public Power Corporation with unpaid electricity bills of up to 1,000 euros is costing the Greek power giant close to half a billion euros.
While in opposition, the now ruling SYRIZA party had embraced the grassroots “I Won’t Pay” movement, and when it rose to power then energy minister Panos Skourletis had issued an informal order to PPC forbidding it from cutting the power of consumers who owed it less than 1,000 euros. Notably, there is no social need for protecting the truly vulnerable as they are protected through the so-called Social Household Rates.
This policy continues today under Skourletis’s successor, Giorgos Stathakis (probably for personal political purposes), and has led to the accumulation of unpaid PPC bills totaling almost 500 million euros. Data seen by Kathimerini point to 1,536,305 debtors across the country with unpaid debts of up to 1,000 euros each, with the total amount coming to 469,454,991 euros.
The lion’s share of those debtors are in Attica, with the number of consumers in Athens who owe PPC amounts that reach up to 1,000 euros amounting to 511,181 and a total amount due of 161,456,128 euros. In Thessaloniki there are 132,202 such PPC debtors, who owe 40,221,207 euros.
Up to December 31, 2016, only 14 percent of debtors owing amounts up to 1,000 euros had entered PPC’s favorable settlement program. A total of 1,311,059 consumers with total debts of 347,642,514 euros have chosen to stay away and not make any effort to pay.
PPC reacted to this situation by asking for a reduction in protected consumers to those owing up to 500 euros. This was evident by its advertising campaign last month on the freezing of payments for one year for those with debts of up to that amount along with the provision of a 10 percent discount for those who pay their new bills on time.
Nevertheless, even that effort has failed, as Stathakis told the press a few days ago that “the safety net remains for those owing under 1,000 euros.”
PPC issued a quick response, with chairman Manolis Panayiotakis stating last week that “the interventions made by the state in the name of social policy do not permit the company to operate competitively.”