Hera allows customers in financial difficulty to pay their bills in instalments. Households facing financial hardship (that are not behind with any payments, including instalments previously granted) are allowed to pay their bills in three instalments, applying an interest rate equal to the FCA (the official reference interest rate at which the European Central Bank grants loans to other banks and equal to 0% at 16/03/2016) increased by 3.5%. For amounts over Euro 2,000, Hera reserves the right to carry out more accurate checks before granting the instalment plan. In certain cases of financial hardship (customers using the temporary state layoff fund, or on unemployment benefits, beneficiaries of the income support fund of the Emilia-Romagna Bilateral Agency or customers who are unemployed as a result of the reduction or termination of their employment) the number of instalments is increased to 6, interest-free. In addition, subject to approval of social workers, the instalments may be increased to nine. This procedure is also applied to professionals and small condominiums.
Businesses facing financial difficulty can also ask to pay Hera in instalments. In these cases Hera grants similar conditions after checking their creditworthiness.
AcegasApsAmga offers its customers the opportunity to postpone the due date of their bills or to agree on a repayment plan in 3 instalments. In both cases, the sums of the instalments may be increased by interest at the rate set by the ECB (0%). In addition, the company grants customers in particularly difficult economic conditions additional favourable payment terms.
In the service area of Marche Multiservizi, the company grants payment of the bills by instalments to customers that are experiencing financial hardship, provided that they have always paid their previously granted instalments. Payment by instalments for residential customers concerns only bills over Euro 100. The instalments are agreed with the users in proportion to the amounts of the bills issued and up to 4 instalments may be allowed, except in special cases agreed with the social services of the municipalities, where multiple instalments can be agreed. In these latter cases of financial hardship (customers using the temporary state lay-off fund, or on unemployment benefits, beneficiaries of the income support from municipalities or customers who are unemployed as a result of the reduction or termination of their employment and assisted by social services) the instalments are interest-free. For users that fall within the above procedure, an interest rate equal to the FCA is granted (the official reference interest rate at which the European Central Bank grants loans to other banks and equal to 0% at 16/03/2016) increased by 3%. This procedure is also applied to professionals and small condominiums. In particular, for businesses, payment by instalments is authorized following checks on their level of solvency.
In 2018, 214,618 instalments were made (+9.5% compared to 2017), of which 208,048 were mass market customers (+9.6% compared to 2017) and 6,570 were business customers (+7.5% compared to 2017). Overall, the amount paid in instalments amounted to Euro 121.3 million (+7.8% compared to 2017).
At the geographical level, more than 209,480 bills were paid in instalments in Emilia-Romagna (+10.3% compared to last year), 3,149 in Triveneto (-24.4% compared to last year) and 1,989 in Marche (+2.9% compared to last year), for a value of about Euro 118 million in Emilia-Romagna, about Euro 2 million in Triveneto and about Euro 1.4 million in Marche.
|Bills paid in instalments (qty)||186,843||195,974||214,618|
|of which mass market (qty)||180,863||189,863||208,048|
|of which business (qty)||5,980||6,111||6,570|
|Bills paid in instalments (thousands of Euro)||112,705||112,591||121,315|
|of which mass market (thousands of Euro)||83,770||81,273||89,690|
|of which business (thousands of Euro)||28,953||31,317||31,625|
The application of the Agreements continued in 2018, to prevent service disconnections for assisted persons. The Group’s attention to the weaker social groups is also confirmed by its collaboration over many years with the Social Services of the municipalities and with the Organizations that provide services to citizens, an aspect that sets Hera apart in the panorama of multi-utilities and sales companies and provides a dedicated channel with operators that offer support and counselling to social workers through structured forms of relief for the most economically fragile portion of society. Collaboration with the Authorities makes it possible to avoid service disconnections or reactivation of the service if it has been stopped, optimizing the management of economic contributions by the Social Services.
In 2018, more than 17,000 requests were handled in Emilia-Romagna, following reports from social workers, and 89.6% of disconnections were avoided. The number of municipalities which have agreed to the protocol has remained unchanged at 85. All the provincial capitals of Emilia-Romagna are concerned, except for Rimini.
AcegasApsAmga also continues to collaborate with the municipalities of Trieste and Padua, within the framework of the protocols signed for the management of users in economic difficulty. These agreements involve instalment payments on bills, granting subsidies and preventing service disconnections. In 2018, there were 914 water service-related contacts, of which 815 in the municipality of Trieste and 99 in the municipality of Padua.
In 2010, on its own initiative, Hera introduced a bonus to offset expenses for the district heating service, to be attributed to customers who have the income requirements with the same procedures as those used for gas and electricity expense compensation. The bonus for 2018 is worth Euro 118 per year for households up to 4 members, and Euro 163 per year for households with a greater number of members. At the date of approval of this Report, 1,050 applications had been submitted for 2018 (1,070 in 2017) amounting to about Euro 130 thousand.
As regards Hera and AcegasApsAmga, the contracts state that if the bill is not paid the service may be disconnected. In these cases, a first reminder is sent approximately 20 days after the bill’s expiry (only for reliable payers and debts of up to Euro 150) and a subsequent reminder (after an additional 20 days) is sent by registered mail, to inform the customer that the service may be disconnected. For amounts due under Euro 150, if payment is not made the supply is disconnected, on average two months after the bill’s due date. If the invoice is for more than Euro 150, a single reminder is sent by registered mail, warning the customer that their service may be disconnected. In this case, the service can be disconnected about one month after the invoice’s due date. The customer may request to pay the bill in instalments, up to the time the supply is disconnected. If the disconnection involves condominium users, Hera informs thee residents individually before disconnecting the service.
As concerns the supply of water, until February 2014 Hera limited or disconnected its supply in compliance with the provisions of the Integrated Water Service Charter and with the regulations of competent authorities in force. In March 2014 Hera voluntarily decided that in the event of late payments by residential customers or mixed-type customers, it would limit the service in all Emilia-Romagna and Triveneto areas served but never disconnect it.
If it is not possible to disconnect the service (e.g. the meter cannot be accessed) an additional notice is sent to the customer to inform that the service will be disconnected (connection cut off) should they fail to pay their bill in the set timeframe. For energy services, (gas, electricity, district heating), if the disconnection is not technically feasible, the selling party may terminate the contract and activate the last resort services.
In addition, the updated SOStegno Hera guide is available on the Group’s website, and it contains all the information necessary on the opportunities of reducing expenses for energy and water services, reserved for customers in difficult economic and/or physical conditions. It also provides information on how to pay bills in instalments and what to do in the event of late payments. The guide also explains how users can benefit from the social bonuses for electricity, gas, water and district heating, and who to contact in the event of water leaks. Lastly, it provides advice on good practices for reducing consumption, actively contributing to the responsible use of environmental resources. A new version of SOStegno Hera will be updated and released during 2019. The distribution will affect all the areas where Hera provides energy services, i.e. those that have the greatest impact on household budgets.