The biggest amounts owed by customers to main power utility PPC, affected by a major cash flow problem as a result of an alarming level of unpaid receivables, are linked to some of Greece’s wealthiest regions – in terms of tourism development or manufacturing activity.
Rhodes, Heraklion on Crete, Corfu and Larissa, prefectures boasting higher income levels than other parts of Greece, are leading regional offenders.
On Rhodes, one of Greece’s most established tourism markets, six in ten businesses and professionals are missing deadlines for their PPC electricity bill payments, hotels being the worst offenders with 752 not paying on time. Some 200 of these owe amounts of over 10,000 euros each to the power utility.
As for Corfu, another key tourism destination, 41 percent of households and 58.4 percent of businesses have fallen behind on electricity bill payments to PPC. The amounts owed are considerable as 15.5 percent of professionals owe amounts of over 3,000 euros each. Data covering the period up to June 30 showed that just 29.3 percent of Corfiots with unpaid debt to PPC have registered for the utility’s recently softened payback program. This program, enabling customers to settle debt through 36 installments without any deposit payment, was introduced on April 1.
Some customers have operated as serial exploiters of PPC’s payback programs, both present and past, by registering, to avoid power cuts, only to not follow up with payments. In port-city Patras, western Greece, one household reportedly owing roughly 7,000 euros to PPC eventutally had its power cut just days ago after repeatedly registering for payback programs, whenever receiving power cut threats, without meeting ensuing installment payments. This customer had apparently not paid any installments since 2011.
In Heraklion, Crete, one hotel has allegedly owed PPC 390,000 euros over many years. It heads a list of twenty similar cases.
Fearing political cost, the country’s administrations that governed Greece between 2012 and 2014 had ordered PPC, controlled by the Greek State with a 51.12 percent share, to limit its power supply cuts. At the time, anti-austerity movements – dubbed “Won’t Pay” – snowballed amid the recession. They were encouraged by Syriza while still an opposition party. As a result of it all, PPC is now burdened by an unpaid receivables figure of 2.4 billion euros, or 2.7 billion euros according to Genop, its main union group. The amount is big enough to not only destabilize the utility but the entire electricricity market as well.
Numerous power reconnections have been committed illegally in smaller communities where cash-strapped citizens have been able to find solutions through their small social networks, while, in other cases, wealthier members of society choosing to neglect their accumulating electricity bill debts have often turned to political connections to avoid power cuts, all of which highlights that corruption remains a widespread problem in Greece.