News & Updates
Sarawak Energy’s Arrears Recovery Process Provides For Appeal Mechanism
21 JANUARY 2022
Sarawak Energy’s utility arm Syarikat SESCO Berhad’s (SESCO) arrears recovery process related to meter tampering and electricity theft cases is governed under the Sarawak Electricity Ordinance.
It provides for a systematic procedure when dealing with suspected power theft cases. The established internal process aims to protect consumers and ensure power thieves ultimately pay for stolen electricity consumption.
The ordinance applies only to Sarawak’s power utility and is different from the Electricity Supply Act, 1990 that applies to power utilities in West Malaysia and Sabah.
The Electricity Supply Department of the Ministry of Utility and Telecommunication (MUT) Sarawak has a regulatory overview including Sarawak Energy’s arrears recovery process to ensure the rights of electricity customers in Sarawak are protected under the Ordinance.
Sarawak Energy has recorded a recent surge in electricity theft particularly involving crypto mining operations. Together with MUT Sarawak and the Police, SESCO has been intensifying its monitoring, investigation and meter inspection operations state-wide.
The meter inspection teams are well trained and equipped with tools to detect different methods and indicators of electricity theft, including tampered seals or meter wiring modification.
In accordance with stringent standard operating procedures, all evidence such as seized electricity meters are collected, packaged carefully and transported to a meter laboratory to be examined through comprehensive testing for confirmation of the original indicators that the meter was tampered with. The evidence is then preserved to be exhibited in court whenever required. The team handling the evidence comprise personnel authorised under the Electricity Ordinance and each step of the process is well documented.
If confirmed to be a meter tampered case, a letter will be issued to the customer with details of the irregularities and arrears to be charged under Section 33A of the Electricity Ordinance (Cap 50) – Right to Recover Loss of Revenue.
The customer is then required to settle the arrears in full within a stipulated deadline. Those facing difficulties in paying their arrears bills in one lump sum may request to settle via an instalment-based payment plan.
Even for cases that date back many years, arrears – the amount owed that would have been billed and paid earlier if the meter had not been tampered with - will continue to appear on the customer’s monthly bill as a strong reminder that there is still active recovery action for the sum owed.
In a recent case highlighted in the media concerning arrears charged 14 years ago, the customer was fully aware of the arrears owed to SESCO having been served reminder for payment in addition to the arrears appearing continuously on the customer’s monthly electricity bill as a constant alert of the unsettled sum.
To provide an additional avenue of recourse, customers who object to the findings may still request Sarawak Energy to trigger the appeal process. The customer can submit supporting documents to justify their actions. All cases are assessed thoroughly, and the customer will be notified of the appeal’s outcome in writing. The aggrieved customer may approach SESCO to work towards a mutually agreed solution. The decision made at this point by the appeal committee would be final. Extenuating circumstances if presented are also considered by the appeal committee in arriving at the final decision.
The strict internal procedures were developed to ensure the integrity of evidence for cases brought to court. Through this robust process, SESCO has over the last ten years recorded 37 civil claims cases related to arrears charges of which 36 were decided in favour of SESCO.
Stealing electricity is a criminal offence and a dangerous act. Unsafe non-standard wirings and illegal connections used to tamper the wiring to bypass the meter pose an extreme safety risk to the public. It can cause electrocution, fire and even death. This can also damage electrical appliances and cause localised power interruptions.
Landlords are advised to always be on alert regarding their tenants’ business activities to avoid getting implicated in the crimes committed by the tenants operating within their rented premises and to ensure electricity accounts are under their tenants’ names.
All queries related to arrears can be channelled to Sarawak Energy’s customer care centre at 1300-88-3111 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Customers may also reach Sarawak Energy via its very own mobile application “SEB cares” which can be downloaded via Google Play Store or Apple App Store.
Members of the public can also report on suspicious activities concerning power theft via the hotline at 082-443535. All information will be kept strictly confidential.