Company managed to slash debt by 14pc last year

GESA, the gas and electricity board, is owed 16.2 million euros by customers, despite having reduced the debt by nearly 14 per cent last year. Seven million euros are owed by general customers, 3.4 million euros by town and village councils and the balance by “special” customers, that is, official organisms. The company expects to end the year with an invoicing of more than 360 million euros. In announcing the 14 per cent reduction in the debt, GESA stressed “the great effort” it had made over the past year to achieve this objective. GESA made use of the Real Decreto 1955/2000 to tackle the debt, as this allows it to cut supplies considered “non-essential” if a bill is unpaid after 60 days. In these cases, the company notifies the user of the amount owed 60-65 days after presenting the bill. After a certain period of time, the meter is removed if the user fails to pay. Depending on the size of the bill, the case can be taken to court. But GESA tries to reach out of court settlements. The company has invested considerable sums to guarantee the electricity service, especially in the summer, when demand peaks. Its income has dropped since July 2001, after 350 companies joined the list of what are known as “qualified customers” (who use more than one million kilowatt hours) such as Palma's Son Sant Joan airport. A spokesman said that it was their obligation to take action against late payers, as a means of ensuring a top quality service for the rest of the customers. In 2001 (the last year for which figures are available), the Balearics accounted for 2.1 per cent of total electricity consumption in Spain. Big businesses have complained about the high cost, alleging that their counterparts in the Peninsula pay between 15 and 25 per cent less for the same service. Consumption in the Balearics is highest in summer, because of the increasing use of air conditioners, not just in hotels and the workplace but also in the home. In winter, demand rises during the cold spells but not as much as in summer, as many people use butane and piped gas rather than electricity for heating.

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