About 1,000 electricity connections are cut every day in Greece as Public Power Corporation customers are increasingly unable to pay their power bills on time, while accumulated debts to the country’s electricity giant stood at more than 1.3 billion euros at the end of 2012. This is not only due to the economic crisis that has eaten into household incomes, but also to the special property tax paid via power bills.
PPC data show that some 700,000 customers had had their debts rearranged with new payment plans by the end of last year, up from 400,000 at the end of 2011. The situation is set to deteriorate this year due to the increase in PPC rates and expected further reductions in household incomes.
The corporation’s customer service offices are filled with people on a daily basis as they seek to get new payment plans or to have their houses reconnected by paying a part of their debt. PPC data point to a great share of the 30,000 houses and companies whose supply is cut off every month being reconnected a few days later.
There is, however, a particular problem with the special property tax. While the Council of State has banned the disconnection of houses for not paying the property charge through the PPC bill, if customers do pay for their electricity, PPC’s software cannot distinguish between payment for the property tax and that for electricity. As a result, the corporation cannot tell whether consumers have paid toward their power bill or just a part of their property tax unless they have paid the full amount.
One such incident that came to Kathimerini’s attention occurred a couple of weeks ago in Nea Smyrni, south of central Athens. An elderly couple had their supply cut off despite having paid for their electricity costs, but not the property tax. When they contacted their local PPC office they were told the problem was due to previous property tax debts, and that to get reconnected they would have to pay a significant part of the tax.
PPC says that this problem can be overcome by the taxpayers visiting the tax offices, where they can apply to have their property levy paid separately to the tax authority, which involves the payment of a 50-euro deposit. Afterward, any payment delay will only concern the customer and the tax office, and not PPC.
Nevertheless many PPC consumers have not yet been informed of this option, leading to a number of families across Greece being left without electricity supply. Meanwhile there are also a number of citizens’ movements against the charge of 50 euros as a deposit.