ECONOMY

PPC announces new payment schemes for debtors

The Public Power Corporation announced on Wednesday it will allow consumers with unpaid bills to arrange payment plans by telephone, with no deposit and the option of as many as 40 installments.

In line with the government’s policy to facilitate the payment of citizens’ overdue debts in a bid to collect some of the 1.3 billion euros owed to it, the electricity giant is doubling the number of interest-free installments for households and medium- and low-voltage corporate consumers.

In doing so, PPC is hoping to help the thousands of households and businesses that are having problems paying their dues, as well as to reduce the ever-growing mountain of unpaid bills that have strangled the corporation’s cash flow.

The first-quarter figures are particularly disappointing regarding the power company’s cash inflows. PPC is worried the situation will deteriorate further due to the prolonged recession and the continued payment of the special property tax via power bills for 2013 too. In the January-March period bad loans added up to 27 million euros per month, against a forecast for 15 million in the corporation’s budget. Daily revenues last month were down 5 percent, which translates into some 30 million euros per month.

At least April appears to be showing some improvement, according to a PPC official, although there seems to be a decline in collections of the special property tax that up to last month were steady at around 10 million euros per day, roughly at last year’s levels. An early reading of this trend suggests that more consumers are now paying only for their electricity charges.

The new payment program for unpaid bills has been approved by the PPC board, although its implementation appears to be rather difficult due to the already widespread practice of debt restructuring by 1 million consumers. The long queues outside PPC offices are attributed to the plans already agreed with customers and PPC employees say the staff will simply be unable to deal with more payment plans.

For this reason, PPC is now planning cater to such clients by telephone, and it has already launched a tender to hire a company to undertake this project. Arranging payment plans will be conducted by phone and customers will only have to appear at PPC counters to pay their installments.

The new program will split the so-called debt-prone customers (either those on so-called Social Household Rates or those proven by their local municipality to be poor) into categories, depending on their consistency in paying bills and whether they have tampered with their electricity meters. Customers who have previously always paid on time or have only failed to on one occasion will get up to 40 monthly installments to pay their dues. Those who have repeatedly failed to stick to payment arrangements will have to pay 10 percent of their debts up front and the rest in six interest-free tranches. Customers who have tampered once with their meter after being cut off must pay a deposit of 20 percent and the rest in four monthly installments, while those who have repeatedly fiddled with their meters after being disconnected will pay the whole amount in a lump sum or offer a guarantee in return for a payment plan.

For those consumers who are not deemed debt-prone, the number of installments will double, while for companies, the increase in the number of tranches ranges between 50 and 60 percent.