Catalonia to stop power firms cutting off vulnerable consumers

Regional government will protect those unable to pay bills in winter

The Catalonia regional government has approved a decree that will see the economically vulnerable protected when they are unable to pay for their gas and electricity during the winter months. Between November and March, consumers who receive a cut-off notice will have a period of 10 days to present a Social Security report confirming they meet three basic requirements to activate a stay.

The first concerns economic thresholds. A couple earning less than 569.12 euros a month, or 7,967.73 per year, will be eligible, with a 30-percent increase for each additional working family member. Secondly, a consumer must prove they have taken all possible measures to reduce usage. And third, applicants must have a deal with their provider that includes a social coupon discount that is automatically applied when the total wattage contracted is less than 3KW.

With these requirements met, providers will be unable to cut off consumers until April, with the accumulated debt “postponed under the conditions agreed by users and service providers, and that can be paid between the following months of April and October,” the government explained.

The decree does not cover water, with the regional government saying that the committee working on the problem of “energy poverty” only took electricity and gas into account. The Catalan authorities do not have figures on the number of people who will benefit from the measure. “There is a underlying problem, which is defining what energy poverty is, and we are working on it,” said sources from the employment and businesses department, which is responsible for energy matters. Continued on page 3

“It is not only a case of those who cannot pay their bills, but also concerns other elements, such as where they live, what type of property they live in and so on,” say the same sources. Catalonia is the first Spanish region to introduce such legislation, although Andalusia is studying similar measures. France and the UK already have such laws in place.

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