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NEWS | Wednesday, 26 November 2008

No ruling yet on energy bills capping for big businesses

An investigation by the Office of Fair Trading into the €50,000 capping on electricity bills for tourism and manufacturing companies started almost two years ago is still unconcluded.
The investigation, triggered by a complaint filed by Dr Frank Portelli – owner of St Philip’s Hospital and former president of the PN’s administrative council – has not yet been concluded despite the government’s controversial decision to keep capping for the next three years.
Contacted yesterday, Portelli said he hadn’t heard from the office since he put forward his case. “I made my complaint about a year and nine months ago, and I haven’t heard anything since. I’m always told they’re about to give their ruling, but it hasn’t come out yet.”
Questions sent to the office about the status of the investigation remained unanswered.
The €50,000 capping on utility bills was set by government for certain tourism and manufacturing companies as a form of subsidy in the wake of soaring tariffs and surcharges.
Portelli complained that the measure put other sectors, including his own hospital, at a commercial disadvantage. “My argument is that price should be the same for everyone. Just like hotel owners, we have to foot the bill, and like them we attract foreigners and medical tourists, so there should be a level playing field. And like hotel owners, I also employ people and provide jobs – so that is no argument in favour of capping. It’s either capping for everyone or for nobody. We shouldn’t be forking out our money for luxury hotels to keep their bills low.”
So far, taxpayers have forked out around €15 million to keep big businesses capped. Government has agreed to the employers’ suggestion to phase out the capping on energy subsidies over a three-year period, while getting smaller businesses to pay out the difference.


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