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By Humphrey Carter

PALMA
ELECTRICITY company, GESA, yesterday accused the Balearic Director General for Consumer affairs of “giving in” to public opinion and getting clients' hopes up with regards to electricity bill refunds as the argument over the power company's new billing system rages on.

Last week, the Balearic Ministry for Consumer Affairs ordered GESA to revise the best part of half a million of the “estimated” bills which clients are contesting on the grounds they have been over charged under the new monthly billing system.

FINES
Over the weekend it was also revealed that GESA is facing being fined between 30'000 and 600'000 euros after the Ministry for Consumer Affairs found the company guilty of having wrongfully billed its clients for December by using the revised electricity rates for 2009.

GESA was already facing a severe fine after having been found responsible for last November's power cut which left thousands of people without power in Majorca and Minorca.

This week, GESA is supposed to begin refunding over-charged clients but, sources for the electricity company in Palma warned yesterday that, in most of the cases, GESA is only expecting to have to make up the difference by “a matter of cents.” GESA accused the Ministry for Consumer Affairs of giving their clients “false expectations” with regards to the sums of money that consumers can expect to be refunded.

What is more, the amount over charged should be deducted from the next bill.
GESA is furious over the allegations which have been made against them, such as excessive hikes in electricity rates and failure to comply with consumer laws, and is going to be taking legal action against the Ministry to show that it acted correctly and in compliance with the law and, until central government decides otherwise, the new estimated billing will continue for the next few months. “It's going to take two or three years for us to demonstrare that we have acted correctly but it will be too late by then,” the GESA source said.
The electricity company yesterday stressed that temperatures have been unusually low over the winter and that obviously led to an increase in consumption.

OUTRAGE
Combine that with last year's 20 percent increase in the cost of power and, according to GESA, this is the reason behind the rise in electricity bills.

Included in the next set of bills will be a letter explaining that, in accordance with the ruling by the Director General for Consumer Affairs, Gesa has revised the bills for December and January and any difference is going to be refunded. Over the past few weeks, since the December and January bills were issued, there has been growing outrage across the Balearics from consumers who, in some cases, claim their bills have almost doubled.