Power consumers have been unknowingly lending money to Hellenic Post (ELTA) when they pay their electricity bills at post offices, as ELTA has been withholding payments instead of passing them on to Public Power Corporation.
After paying a PPC bill at a post office, most people feel certain that they have settled their dues to the company and, having paid on time, also expect the 15 percent discount that the power giant grants. However, many have found that when the next bill arrives, the amount already paid appears as overdue arrears, which have also been topped up with interest, while the discount has been lost – to say nothing of the threat of being disconnected. Thousands have called in at PPC branches in the last month asking for both an explanation and the settlement of their arrears.
PPC acknowledges the problem as serious. “This is a really difficult issue that we will tackle immediately,” a PPC official told Kathimerini.
The directive given to PPC branches for now is to ask customers to pay only the sum of the latest bill, though this does not address the problem of the loss of the discount or the interest they have to pay.
PPC faced a similar problem with ELTA in March 2017, when the amount due to the utility had come to 19.5 million euros. That was eventually paid after PPC threatened ELTA with legal action.
PPC has commissioned ELTA to allow customers to pay their electricity bills at post offices in return for an annual fee of 20 million euros. However, PPC allows ELTA to collect that 20 million by withholding amounts that electricity consumers have paid for their bills.
Last year ELTA attributed the withholding of PPC bill money to problems in the interbank transaction system and a lack of liquidity. It now appears that Hellenic Post has simply found a sly way of plugging its financial holes. ELTA suggests its cash problem stems from not receiving money it is owed by the wider public sector.
Kathimerini asked ELTA why it continues to withhold PPC consumers’ cash, but its management refused to answer, stressing that “the ELTA chairwoman cannot respond to every single query that comes up.”