In an information note dated October 18, 2023, and widely shared on WhatsApp, the Cameroon National Consumers Network (RNC) claims to have received complaints from several electricity consumers using Eneo's smart meters (commonly known as prepaid meters). According to the RNC, these consumers complained of having received a summons for unpaid bills, whereas the principle is that prepaid customers pay before consuming energy.
"When these consumers go to their local branch to answer their summons, to find out where and how the unpaid bills come from, even though they regularly purchase their energy before consuming it, Eneo and its agents unjustly accuse them of fraud or unpaid subscription, with an injunction to pay before being connected back to the electricity network,” the RNC writes.
The network claims that the "supposed unpaid bills" are in fact "advances on consumption" "unfairly" generated by Eneo's billing system in the accounts of prepaid subscribers.
Based on that fact, the RNC accuses Eneo of ripping its clients. When contacted by SBBC, the eclectic utility explained that it does not charge its prepaid clients subscription fees also known as advances on consumption. It adds however that when postpaid clients become prepaid, their balance of advance consumption is transferred to their prepaid contract. When the client has no debt, the outstanding balance is transferred as energy credit or cash.
“If by any chance a prepaid customer is wrongly billed for the advances on consumption, they are encouraged to complain at their branch and the regional management to which they are associated. Their rights will be restored," ENEO’s communication department explains.
It should be noted that prepaid clients may receive regularization bills. This applies to those who were illegally connected to the electricity network before becoming regular clients, regular clients with a prepaid connection deemed “irregular” during installation checks, or those classified in a category other than their own.
It must be acknowledged that day-to-day interactions between Eneo and its customers are not always positive. Customers often voice concerns about excessive billing and unwarranted disconnections. Conversely, the company points to instances of uncivil behavior among subscribers, including fraudulent activities. According to Eneo, the implementation of prepaid meters addresses issues identified in the postpaid billing system, which have eroded trust between the company and its clientele.
The electricity provider asserts that prepaid meters offer several advantages, including greater control over energy expenditure, as customers only consume energy equivalent to their purchased amount. Additionally, customers no longer face issues such as advance billing, unpaid bills, or billing disputes.
However, the company also highlights the emergence of new forms of fraud. "Instances of fraud with this meter type are increasing at an alarming rate. In the first half of 2023, 62% of fraud cases identified in Douala were associated with prepaid meters, compared to 38% linked to traditional postpaid meters," it disclosed in its Q2 2023 electricity service newsletter.
Patricia Ngo Ngouem