Kepco bills $153M extra

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Kepco bills $153M extra


Korea Electric Corporation (Kepco) collected a total of 156.1 billion won ($153 million) worth of extra power bills in the past five years, according to lawmakers involved in a National Assembly committee’s inspection.

According to data from Kepco collected by lawmakers Baek Jae-hyun and Park Wan-joo of the New Politics Alliance for Democracy (NPAD), who are also members of the National Assembly’s trade, industry and energy committee, the total amount of money the nation’s sole electricity distributor over-collected was on the rise. Kepco took in 27.6 billion won more than it was owed in 2009 and over-collected by 33 billion won last year.

The extra payments surpassed the value of power bills that went unpaid during the five-year period, which totaled about 87.9 billion won.

By customer type, regular households were the second-biggest victims of Kepco’s excess billing, paying 46.8 billion won extra. Skyscrapers and office buildings were overcharged by 55.3 billion won, followed by industrial sites like factories with 37.5 billion won.

The lawmakers criticized Kepco for blaming the mistakes on technical difficulties. According to Baek and Park, Kepco said that it takes days for it to receive a list from banks of where customers paid their bills, during which time the power distributer pushes the customer to pay again. An overpayment usually happens if a customer has set up an automatic payment and the power distributor takes the amount of the bill out twice, or if the customer accidentally transfers the amount of the bill after it has already been automatically withdrawn.

“Kepco says that it happened by mistake, but this is just an answer of administrative opportunism,” said Baek. “If the company wanted to fix the problem, they would have already developed a live-tracking system in cooperation with financial institutions.”

“It was never intentional,” said Cho Ki-kyung, a press officer at Kepco. “We always gave back the over-collected amount when consumers demanded.”

“It is more of a technical problem,” he added. “We deal with power bills flying in from 25 million households nationwide, worth more than 5 trillion won each month. We’ve always understood the problem existed, but there was not much we could do.”

The company said it hopes to implement an automated system that live-tracks the amount of money and households whose power bill was double-collected in order to return money to those who overpaid. But, it maintained that it will still take a long time to fix the problem, since it would require joint work between various financial institutions.

“Consumers who arrange for their bills to be automatically withdrawn from their bank account should pay more attention to their monthly power bills since Kepco still has not made much of an effort to develop a better system,” Baek said.

BY kim ji-yoon []

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