Bye-bye, E.ON Bulgaria!
Wikipedia tells me that German energy company E.ON is the world's largest investor-owned energy service provider.
That is certainly a nice thing, and I don't have any problem with that. But as the news broke over the weekend that E.ON is selling its Bulgarian subsidiary to Czech company Energy Pro for EUR 133 M, I thought a couple of farewell words to E.ON Bulgaria might be in order.
With part of my family living in Northeastern Bulgaria – where E.ON has been in charge of the local power utility since it was privatized in 2006 – we have been "enjoying" their services for several years.
It's just that when the Germans took over the state-owned utility, many in Bulgaria were mistaken to believe they would be offered – if not a German quality – at least some semblance of that.
Instead, what they got has been a service sometimes worse than in the communist era that would get you afraid of the date when you would have to go down to their counter to pay your electricity bill for a number of reasons.
And trusting the utility that the bill actually reflects you consumption is a whole other story.
To be fair, E.ON Bulgaria has generally been acting upon people's complaints of the service and the excessive bills but that doesn't quite make up for the trouble and the broken consumer rights. Not to mention the "rapid" reaction of their teams in the case of outages in rural areas.
I don't know what the E.ON execs in the corporate headquarters in Duesseldorf have been thinking but their Bulgarian subsidiary has made undeservingly bitter the life of many ordinary people in Bulgaria who got plenty of other problems to struggle with in their everyday lives.
But let me back my criticism with the first ever court battle win of such scope against a Bulgarian power utility enjoying a monopoly position: on November 5, 2011, 66-year-old pensioner Ivan Petrov got E.ON sentenced to pay him a compensation of BGN 24 000 for leaving him without electricity for 605 days.
Petrov's supply had been cut off after E.ON claimed he owed them BGN 1 800 for a period of 6 months, an average monthly bill of BGN 300. Even without a court ruling, any sane person in Bulgaria would have told you that such an electricity bill is excessive even for a four-member family with all possible electric appliances, not to speak of a lonely Bulgarian pensioner who knows better than to consume lots of energy because of his miserable pension.
So what's left for the people of Northeastern Bulgaria now is to hope that the new owner of the utility there – Energy Pro – will have the decency of fixing the problematic service.
But even after avoiding the temptation of judging Energy Pro by their compatriots CEZ who run the power utility in Sofia and Western Bulgaria, one can conclude that an improvement in the service in Northeastern Bulgaria might not be very likely given that the staff and the monopoly position will remain the same.