Iberdrola forced to retract FACUA member's 2,600 Euros bill after accusing him of tampering with the meter

The local authority concluded that that the energy provider based the bill solely on a report by their own technician, with the energy company not requesting intervention by authorities, nor asking whether the customer wished to be present during the inspection. The customer had to pay the amount in several instalments to avoid having his electricity cut off.

Iberdrola forced to retract FACUA member's 2,600 Euros bill after accusing him of tampering with the meter

Iberdrola has been forced to retract a 2,629 Euros bill made out to a FACUA Castilla y León member, after accusing him of tampering with the electric meter at his house. The customer had to pay the amount in several instalments to avoid being cut off.

Following an appeal made by FACUA, the regional Government of Castilla y León's local office in León concluded that the bill was based solely on a report by an Iberdrola technician. The company didn’t request the authorities intervene to check whether the meter had been tampered with, nor was the customer in question, Ramón V.V, present whilst the visit was taking place.

The incident dates back to December 2017, when Iberdrola told the FACUA Castilla y León member that their inspection service had detected that the "measurement equipment" had been "manipulated", and that they would be "monitoring the situation", and "calculating the cost of the energy used, pending invoice".

In March 2018, Ramón told FACUA that Iberdrola had supposedly carried out an inspection and found that the meter had been tampered with, though on the day of the supposed inspection no one was informed. Iberdrola told the customer that the meter is property of the company, and that they are not required to inform anybody before carrying out such inspections.

In the annual statement sent out to Ramón by the company, covering the period from when the supposedly tampered-with meter was fitted, up until the inspection took place, his level of consumption listed was much higher than it had been in reality. Prior to seeking intervention from FACUA Catilla y León, Ramón complained to Iberdrola, claiming that company was charging him too much. He summarised the amount of energy he had been consuming from 2015 up until the day the meter was fitted, and noted that the company was trying to charge him an excessive amount. Iberdrola dismissed his complaint.

The energy provider got back to him in April 2018 stating that "an authorised inspector" visited the site "discovering that the meter had been tampered with, using a bridge attached to the back of the unit, joining the input and output terminals". As a result, the company "replaced the meter" and "billed [him] extra for one year’'s use", from 22 December 2016 to 21 December 2017, "according to article 87 of Royal Decree 1955/2000, that is to say 365 days x 6 hours/day x 9.2kW contracted power, less the billed usage".

Following this reply, FACUA Castilla y León presented the regional Government's Department for Economy in León with a letter, alleging that Iberdrola failed to comply with necessary requirements permitting them to check the meter. The association explained that Ramón had not been given the option of being present at the inspection, and wasn't notified of the exact date it would be carried out. What's more, the association affirmed that the usage Iberdrola was trying to charge him for did not in any way match up with his actual usage.

FACUA Castilla y León reminded the Regional Government of a report released by Spain’s National Energy Commission on 11 April 2013 which states that "the distribution company, as the party responsible for the meter unit, must notify the customer of the date when they will be carrying out the related intervention and the effect it will have". What's more, a sentencing made by Madrid's Provincial Court on 18 November 2010 stated that "it cannot be denied that a sort of defencelessness takes hold when, without any prior notice, the consumer is billed a very high amount on the grounds of a regulation which is not even mentioned in the bill itself, or quoted as having been applied. There is no indication as to the calculations which have been carried out to arrive at this figure, and no option for clients to discuss or contest the bill".

In June 2018, the Regional Government’s local Department for Economy in León rejected FACUA's complaint. As a result, FACUA Castilla y León lodged an appeal with the local office in León, which was granted, rendering the decision made by the Director of the Local Department for Economy in León null and void, and confirming that Ramón didn't have to pay the supposed 2,629 Euros debt (2,173.13 Euros plus 456.36 Euros in VAT) demanded by Iberdrola for usage from 21 December 2016 to 21 December 2017.

In their appeal, FACUA argued that Iberdrola would have to supply proof of the alleged tampering by means of an official inspection, rather than a private one carried out by the company's own employees. The association believes that this bill didn't stand up due to the meter inspection not being carried out in the correct way. In fact, a resolution made by the regional Government of Valencia's Local Department for Energy highlights that "technicians sent out by energy companies are not authorities" and that "the process is not indisputably honest" but that it can "be disregarded when compared with other tests giving different results".

The Regional Government’s Local Office in León highlighted that the electricity company "has not fulfilled its' obligations, given that the company failed to bring this incident of equipment tampering to the authorities' attention" and that they "did not inform [authorities] that they would be carrying out this inspection" but only of "the result of the independent inspection which took place".

Castilla y León authorities said that "a technician from a private company cannot be presumed impartial" and wondered "how it is possible to act with total impunity in the private sector, being 'judge and jury' when it comes to accusing someone of unlawful conduct and charging them the corresponding fee without offering any objective estimate, despite having the data to be able to do this".

Finally, the authorities concluded that Iberdrola "has not conducted itself in line with the Law, since the company has breached obligations laid out in its standard operating procedure for handling cases of alleged tampering" of electric meters and concluded that the customer "is not expected to pay the alleged outstanding amount" of 2629.49 Euros. This also means that the energy provider had to pay back the amount Ramón had already paid off in several instalments following notices that his supply would be cut off.