Nonpayments – how do we cut the Gordian knot?

18 april 2014

“The nonpayment problem for heating and electric power is systematic – the total debt reached critical amount of half a trillion rubles”, - reported the member of the Federation Council of the Russian Federal Assembly Viktor Rogotsky, speaking at the roundtable “Measures for strengthening the payment discipline among electric power consumers” organized by the Analytical Center.

Opening the roundtable, the First Deputy Director General of the Analytical Center Vladislav Onischenko noticed that Russian government understands the need to optimize the consumer costs in some cases. It is important to “find the tools that would influence the electric power consumers through the method of self-regulation so that the nonpayment would become an issue of the past”.

Viktor Rogotsky indicated the importance of this issue directly: “Without solving the nonpayment problem, we cannot continue developing the economy”. What measures are used now? According to Mr. Rogotsky, they are: limiting the energy consumption (used often), collecting penalties (used rarely) and legal proceedings (which is inefficient because of the long terms). Among the new measures are the following: including in contract a special clause about the possibility to disclose personal data in case of nonpayment with the purpose to attract social condemnation. It was suggested to connect the customers and the supplying companies directly, as well as to use the mechanism of a special account. The management company opens this account to receive the payment from consumers and those funds will be used only for energy payment.

Head of the Department for development of regulatory framework of the Ministry of Energy of the Russian Federation Andrey Maksimov reported that the debt in the retail market each year increases by approximately 30 billion rubles. He also informed about the approaches implemented by the Ministry of Energy regarding the amendments to current legislation. “This is a motivation for timely payments through economic measures (discounts, penalties etc.), implementation of financial payment guarantee mechanism, primarily for the so-called “nondisconnectable consumers”, as well as reducing the opportunities for leasing the vital for consumers infrastructure to unfair organizations”, - said Mr. Maksimov. He pointed out some other proposals, up to criminal liability for unauthorized connection to the heating and electric power networks.

Speaking about the nature of nonpayment of the “nondisconnectable consumers”, the Deputy General Director of the JSC “ESC RusHydro” Bislan Gayrabekov marked the high level of depreciation of fixed assets, consciously setting low rates and absence of the investment programs that would allow to make reequipments, as well as handing the management over public utility enterprises to an awarded incompetent organizations. The nature of nonpayment of public utilities enterprises is not the same – it is the high level of costs for public utilities. It is not a secret that public utilities enterprises are only intermediaries – and are not the most efficient ones – between the consumers and power supplying companies, and there are cases of intentional “transfer” of funds followed by bankruptcy of the public utility enterprise and creation of a new management company.

Experts discussed the proposals to improve the legislation and the draft of the Federal Law on strengthening the payment discipline.