Brazil’s consumer protection organization ‘worried’ over prepayment proposals


Mariana Alves,
São Paulo, Brazil — (METERING.COM) — July 10, 2012 – The Brazilian Institute for Consumer Protection (Instituto Brasileiro de Defesa do Consumidor, IDEC) has expressed concerns about the proposals put forward by the regulator Aneel for prepayment electricity.

In a piece entitled “Is electric prepayment an advance or regress?” Mariana Alves writes that the proposal from Aneel appears to be aimed at low income consumers, who are vulnerable and should not be susceptible to the interests of the distributors, which would implement the prepayment.

The impact on these consumers, who would be required to change their budgeting habits, is “very worrying.”

Further, as power is considered in law as an essential public service for the health and safety of consumers, even with an emergency credit that is proposed, prepaid billing is in conflict with this with the suspension of supply on exhaustion of credit.

“Access to energy is part of the right to a dignified life, and a key condition for well-being and for citizens to achieve minimum standards of comfort.”

Alves continues that Aneel has drafted a “superficial” resolution, failing to take account of all the potential issues that would arise, such as the difficulty of the elderly and illiterate adapting to prepayment and handling the credit process, and the potential impact on the tariff if it were to lead to a drastic reduction in losses and operating costs for the distributor.

However, IDEC also acknowledges that prepay electricity would be welcome in particular cases, for example for country and holiday homes, which are inhabited infrequently. But the six month limit for potential termination after not purchasing credits is disproportionate and could even amount to abuse under the Consumer Defense Code.