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Wednesday, 19 March 2014

Mandatory payments data should be made available to consumers MP’s legislative initiative comprehensively discussed at Cabinet sitting




The Government discussed a set of amendments to the law “On Public Services Regulatory Authority,” which was initiated by MP Hrant Bagratyan.

According to the author, the bill seeks to protect consumers’ interests by preventing operator staff from handling the meters in the absence of the consumer. According to the Government, the bill raises new questions concerning technical and financial solutions in terms of imposing additional costs to consumers and businesses. The Government believes that the goals of the initiative are available to consumers and there is no need for additional regulation.

Addressing Minister of Energy and Natural Resources Armen Movsisyan, Prime Minister Tigran Sargsyan said, “This issue became the subject of heated debate at the Ministerial Committee, because I support the MP’s arguments. You and the Public Services Regulatory Commission Head assured that the problem is resolved, including for individuals.

What is the essence of the MP’s arguments” Data required for payment of bills should be made available to our citizens - gas, water – that is, the argument is quite relevant, because it protects the interests of our citizens. Citizens should have the opportunity to get accurate information about how much he should pay.

The only counter argument was that the Public Services Regulatory Commission has solved the problem, but on close examination of the matter my staff reported to me yesterday that is not the case and that there is a problem in terms of individual consumers. I want to understand if there is such a problem, then which is the solution? While the MP’s formulations may seem unacceptable to us from the legal point of view, but we need to find an acceptable way to tackle this problem. So, you have the floor, Mr. Nazarian.”

Public Services Regulatory Commission Head Robert Nazaryan - Thank you, Mr. Prime Minister. The applicable rule states positively that consumers have the right to seal the meters the way they wish. I think this is enough to settle the issue.

Prime Minister Tigran Sargsyan - I agree with your argument, but you must get it through to the public at large. We have a problem here, because my staff reports that the issue is clearly regulated, and the citizens are protected by the laws: we just need to raise public awareness over this issue. I also agree with Mr. Movsisyan’s argument that the MP’s proposal is unacceptable because it implies additional costs for our citizens and, if we set a mandatory norm of law, citizens will have to incur extra expenses. Please, give us the next argument.

Public Services Regulatory Commission Head Robert Nazarian - I would like to say that the service quality parameters are not regulated by the law, but by the aforementioned two documents. If we were to single out the service quality-related indicators, leaving the rest the same, I think it might be harder to remedy the situation. I do believe that those issues should be resolved by means of said two documents.

As for the other question, I have to say that the electricity supply and usage rules - chapter 9 in particular – clearly state that the supplier must post utility consumption information at corresponding terminals available with the banks and post offices by the tenth day of each month.

Secondly, prior to the tenth day of each month, the two national TV channels have to notify the public twice - 18:00 to 20:00 and 20:00 to 23:00 – of the date on which the quantity of electricity consumed during the previous month will be made available to citizens. And, thirdly, the consumer should get information on the quantity and cost of electricity consumed during the previous month.

And, lastly, consumers may ask for such data to be sent by mail or electronically, in which case the operator is supposed to grant the request, with the mail delivery service fee to be settled by consumers themselves. Note that online notifications are provided free of charge. In conclusion, I should also note the electricity grid operator has a website of its own, to which each subscriber has free access and can get relevant information through the use of a PIN code. As regards the rules applicable to gas supply and use, you were right to state that there is a problem here concerning individual consumers that we are going to address by this October 1.

Prime Minister Tigran Sargsyan – Why not earlier? Is it impossible to address the matter before that?

Public Services Regulatory Commission Head Robert Nazaryan - Mr. Prime Minister, we have invited experts from the EU INOGATE program, who are already working and the above deadline is associated with their performance, since they are also trying to assess the situation based on the experience of developed countries from Western Europe.

Prime Minister Tigran Sargsyan - Well, Mr. Movsisyan, in that case you should reword the final part of your finding in a way that we accept the argument and that the government’s opinion is that the legal approach to the problem implies that the Public Services Regulatory Commission shall solve the problem until the month of October.

Public Services Regulatory Commission Head Robert Nazaryan – Either regarding the supply of gas, it is clearly set forth that the supplier is responsible for giving relevant notifications by the 15th day of each month.

Prime Minister Tigran Sargsyan - Mr. Nazarian, I would like to ask you to make this information available to mass media. I am confident that our citizens will benefit from the opportunity to get online information about their account balances, especially considering that the number of Internet users keeps growing year after year. And, if I am not mistaken, that number is close to half a million, which means that the vast majority of our households can receive online information to that effect. We just need to raise their awareness about that opportunity.

The Bill and the Government’s finding will be sent to the National Assembly in the manner established by law.
 

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