Electric Bill Snafu Likely to Create Unpleasant Surprise for Consumers, IEC Says

A worker of Israeli Electricity Company is raised by crane to a utility pole to perform maintenance work. (Flash90)

Israelis may be in for a big financial shock this summer, the Israel Electric Company warned Thursday. As part of employee sanctions against the proposed breakup of the IEC, workers are planning to send out bimonthly electric bills for the May-June and July-August periods at the same time. The move is likely to disrupt budgets for families who try to avoid going into a minus in their bank accounts, as two large bills are likely to be deducted from their accounts at the same time or within days of each other.

In a letter sent out to customers Thursday, the IEC warned that customers could find their finances harder to manage, due to the move by workers. “We wish to draw attention to the fact that bills are likely to be higher than average, as most customers use more electricity in the summer months.” On average, IEC officials said, electricity bills during the summer months can be as much as 50-percent higher than during the spring and fall months.

Among the other sanctions taken by workers have been, besides not sending out bills, a refusal to cut off customers who have not paid their bills, and refusing to answer the 103 emergency phone number that customers can use to report downed electricity lines. Union officials representing IEC workers told Yediot Acharonot that the purpose of the sanctions is not to hurt customers, but to disrupt the flow of income to the company.

The union said that it is undertaking the sanctions because of government plans to transfer to private electric companies the production of electricity from natural gas, which is set to take place next year at the Hadera generating plant. The government is doing this, the union claims, not in order to increase competition, but to force the IEC’s breakup.

In a statement, the union said that it “apologizes to customers for the inconvenience. With that, it is important that the public understand that the Ministers of Energy and Finance have decided to present Israel’s electricity system on a silver platter to millionaire tycoons, a move which will harm the interests of customers and of the public.”

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