Malta’s Ministries of Resources and Infrastructure are preparing to defend themselves against legal action being undertaken by 80-100 EU residents living outside Malta. The group of claimants also intend to sue service provider Enemalta, as well as their respective billing agent Automated Revenue Management Services Ltd (ARMS) who, it’s claimed, have applied lower water, gas and electricity tariffs to Maltese accounts.
Not only is the group seeking reimbursement for being the overcharged household costs, which ARMS have refused to repay, they’re also challenging the validity and legality of the seemingly biased pricing policies that were introduced by the defendant service providers in the first place. Now, due to a disputed failure to provide ARMS with critical documentation that’s was requested by the disgruntled claimants, the Malta Resources Authority is also involved.
The problem, which Malta’s Resources Authority Chief Exec Mr Rizzo hopes to defer to Enemalta’s Advisory Panel, stems from how residential necessities affect the tariffs set out in Malta’s Resources Act. The act, which was first introduced by Minister of Infrastructure Austin Gatt, Finance Minister Tonio Fenech’s predecessor, will now be challenged to the full extent of the law, although some suggest that the issue will be resolved before such legal complexities come into fruition.
Escalated energy and water costs aside, there’s also the nature of providing evidential documentation to the service providers. Maltese residents are required to provide multiple forms of correspondence, including anything from bills and banking slips, just to acquire the residential rates that are lower by as much as 30%. Despite imminent changes to the system, it’s the validity of this pricing structure that’s about to be challenged by those based outside of Malta’s boundaries.
The old system of registering Maltese residents, which some say is in violation of EU rulings, is in the process of being replaced by a simpler e-residency ID card system; but not everyone is convinced of its effectiveness. The claimant group’s lawyer Ms Juliette Galea briefly commented, offering further insight into the full extent of the forthcoming legal wrangle: “…There are indications that the entire structure violates several EU directives as well as the principal EU Treaty…”
Whether viewed as residential discounts or non-residential surcharges, those responsible for the imbalance in tariffs are likely to lose their jobs and reputation. As once promised by PM Gonzi, a collective call for accountability, integrity and transparency is highly expected, as well as a host of compensatory payments that should be are made to the overpaying, non-voting public who have been charged more for the same products and services.
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