Power consumers have involuntarily become lenders of Hellenic Post (ELTA) by choosing to pay their electricity bills through the mail company’s branch network, as ELTA withholds payments instead of passing them on immediately to Public Power Corporation.
Consumers leave the post offices holding their payment receipts, in full peace at having settled their dues to PPC, and those paying in time also expect the 15 percent discount that the power giant grants. However when the next bill arrives the amount already paid appears as overdue arrears that have also been topped up with interest, while the discount is also lost – to say nothing of the threat for getting disconnected.
In the last few weeks thousands of PPC consumers have called in at the utility’s branches asking for explanations and for the settlement of their arrears.
PPC acknowledges the problem as serious for its clients. “This is a really difficult issue which we will tackle immediately,” a PPC official tells Kathimerini.
The directive given to PPC branches for now is to issue pay slips asking consumers to pay only the sum of the latest bill, though this does not respond to the problem of the loss of the discount or the penalties imposed through interest.
PPC had faced a similar problem with ELTA last year, when the amount due to the utility had come to 19.5 million euros. That was eventually paid after a letter of warning that PPC sent to ELTA, threatening with a recourse to justice.
PPC has commissioned ELTA to serve power customers for the payment of bills for an annual fee of 20 million euros. PPC offsets that amount with the cash that ELTA withhold, but the problems for consumers remains unresolved.
About a year ago ELTA attributed the withholding of the money of PPC consumers to problems in the online interbank transaction system and the lack of liquidity. What does emerge now is that the mail company has found a particularly improper way to plug its financial holes, and suggests that its cash problem stems from the debts of the wider public sector to ELTA.
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.”