Uganda Regulator Drafts Pre-Paid Code

The Electricity Regulatory Authority (ERA) is working out a series of rules to regulate pre-paid metering in Uganda.

This comes in the aftermath of widespread complaints from the general public, including Members of Parliament, who have been converted to the new supply monitoring system.

Umeme, the national electricity distributor, brands the service as ‘Yaka’.

Many users complain that the system is cheating them, because they are seemingly getting less power for more money.

However, Umeme has been explaining that customers who still had arrears at the time of conversion, will still have pay up through deductions made from any subsequent pre-paid power purchased until the debt is cleared.

According to ERA, the draft plan, will cover measures for the distribution licensees of the electric power in implementing prepaid metering.

They apply to both customers converting from post-paid to pre-paid metering and to new customers who have not been on either of the two.

The draft strategies were issued last week by John Wandera, the ERA Principal Communication Officer a distribution Licensee ( in this case UMEME, WENRECO or others). They must only sell electricity to a customer using a pre-payment meter under a prepayment meter agreement.

According the the draft document, ‘The pre-payment meter agreement shall be approved by the Authority. The agreement shall at minimum provide for rights and obligations of the distribution licensee, rights and obligations of the customer and dispute resolution mechanisms’.

According to the draft, a distribution licensee shall not sell electricity to a customer using a pre-payment meter under a standard tariff agreement.

‘The Distribution Licensee should provide customers who enter a pre-payment meter agreement with a copy of the terms and conditions of the prepayment meter agreement.

‘Where the terms and conditions of the pre-payment meter agreement change, the Distribution Licensee must notify all customers supplied under a prepayment meter agreement of the change(s) in at least two daily newspapers circulating generally in Uganda.

‘Where the changes stated above are material, the Distribution Licensee must provide all customers supplied under a prepayment meter agreement with a revised copy of the terms and conditions within 10 working days’, the ERA draft seen by East African Business Week reads in part.

It says a pre-payment meter agreement must explain how a customer can obtain a refund of any credit remaining in the pre-payment meter account when the meter agreement is terminated or otherwise ends.

The Distribution Licensee must obtain the explicit informed consent of a customer to enter into a prepayment meter agreement. The explicit informed consent of a customer can be obtained only after timely, accurate, verifiable and truthful information about the prepayment meter agreement has been provided to the Customer.

The draft rule states that Distribution Licensees must not use undue harassment or coercion in connection with the sale or possible sale of electricity to a customer under a pre-payment meter agreement.

There should also be a written disclosure statement which must be provided to a customer in respect of a pre-payment meter agreement.

It must contain the date of commencement of the agreement, the fees, rates and charges that will be applicable for the retailing of electricity under the prepayment meter agreement, all costs to the customer associated with entering into the prepayment meter agreement, including fees, rates and charges and the methods by which the customer can purchase credit and the locations at which payments can be made.

It should also show the amount of emergency credit to be provided. The draft adds that a distribution Licensee must, at no charge, provide information on the use of the prepayment meter to a customer who enters into a prepayment meter agreement.

‘This information must show instructions on how to operate the pre-payment meter which are expressed in clear, simple and concise language, and in a format which makes it easy for a person not familiar with the operation of a prepayment meter to understand’, the draft reads.

ERA wants the licensee to clearly show instructions on how to access the emergency credit facility of the pre-payment meter, instructions on how to obtain a refund of remaining credit when the meter agreement is terminated, instructions on how and where payments to the prepayment meter account can be made and information on who to contact and relevant contact details, including telephone number(s) for faults, complaints, enquiries and emergencies.

‘If requested by the customer, the Distribution Licensee must use its best endeavors to provide the operating instructions in a language other than English if requested by the customer and make available translating and interpretation services on the same basis as provided to the Distribution Licensee’s standard tariff customers,’ the ERA pre-electricity payment regulatory plan states.

Source : East African Business Week

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