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Consumers still paying gas supply tax two years after abolition

Published on 24/06/2019

The government has been fannying around again, this time over gas charges that should have been removed from consumers’ bills some two years ago.

The rate charged by municipalities to various natural gas distribution companies is still being added to domestic bills despite the charge to consumers being eradicated in the 2017 State Budget.

The Socialist Party and its Left Bloc support structure, all agreed to end the ‘underground occupancy rate’ charged to consumers for the priviledge of having gas supplied to properties.

This is a charge levied by Councils to the distribution companies for the use of underground space through which the supply pipes pass – a value that the companies simply pass on to consumers.

The rate, currently charged by 54 avaricious municipalities, has no upper limit, a fact taken advantage of by many.

According to data from the Regulatory Entity for Energy Services (ERSE), cited by Público newspaper, Covilhã residents pay the highest underground supply tax, adding a whopping 41% to gas bills, followed by the unfortunate denizens of Lousada and Seixal.

According to Público, the National Association of Portuguese Municipalities spotted, back in 2015, that the criteria for calculating the rate varied according to the Council area. In some municipalities, the calculation was made according to the diameter of the conduits, in others it was by the linear metres of pipes in the network.

The Government decided in 2017 that the tax should be paid by the gas companies. The move had to be repeated in the 2019 State Budget as nothing had happened to relieve consumers.

In February, João Galamba, Secretary of State for Energy, passed the buck by stating that the process in question ‘would be conducted by the Ministry of Internal Administration, which oversees municipalities.’

According to Público, the government took the standard tactic of setting up a working group, this one coordinated by the Ministry of Internal Administration with the participation of the Ministry of Economy, the State Secretariat for Energy and ERSE, which have managed to send each other lots of emails but can not actually say when the 2017 law will be implemented nor where the whole shambles has got to.