Electricity suppliers are trying to prevent so-called “energy tourism” – i.e. the phenomenon of consumers constantly switching from one provider to another, leading to the accumulation of arrears – by creating a consumers register similar to the Teiresias register of bad debtors.
In August, the first month of implementation of the new pricing mechanism, customer movements between suppliers, according to market players, were up 20% compared to previous months, a percentage expected to increase further in September and the winter season, since August is not an indicative month due to summer holidays.
A share of August’s moves, market estimates say, are consumers who switched providers, leaving unpaid bills behind, since they are not bound by law. In order to stop the phenomenon of energy tourism, and after calls to the Energy Ministry for an intervention fell on deaf ears, the market is looking to the establishment and operation of a register according to the standards of the corresponding cell telephony system, where companies will have access to data on electricity bills. Although a similar attempt was made in the past, without success, the market estimates that today the time is right and the system will be ready to operate in six months’ time.
Providers are filled with anxiety about the course of unpaid debts, as relevant officials are conveying, because payment delays of more than 45 days currently amount to 30% of cash due. Although in the last two months, with the high subsidies, a stabilization of the growth rate has been observed, there is strong concern over a possible escalation, especially in the winter season with high consumption.
The collection lag is exacerbating providers’ liquidity problems, which have increased as they have been forced to pay exorbitant amounts for months now to cover the increased wholesale cost of power purchases to serve their customers, while possibilities of opening new lines of credit are narrowing as banks wish to limit their exposure to the sector.