The National Consumer Forum (NCF) will request the National Energy Regulator (Nersa) to reject Eskom's proposed 34% price hike, the
consumer body said on Tuesday."Eskom is now using contradictory arguments to push for more price increases, expecting consumers
to keep paying more even while the economy shrinks, spending slows and jobs are lost," said the NCF.Its chairman Thami Bolani said
Eskom had this time last year argued that a positive economic climate - which caused unexpected growth in energy usage - was the reason
for getting consumers to pay more. "Now, Eskom wants another major hike in prices, but for precisely the opposite reason," he said.
"They say they want a 34 percent increase because the economic climate has worsened. So we want to know if there are any economic
conditions under which Eskom will not request unreasonable increases in electricity prices?"
In a worsening economic climate, demand fell and prices were supposed to drop, not increase, said Bolani."This has already happened
in the coal market, where prices have halved over the past year, but why is this not reflected in Eskom's plans and prices?"The NCF cited the
perilous financial situation in which many consumers now found themselves. At least four out of every ten credit-active consumers were
over-indebted, according to a recent research. This meant that 7.3 million consumers had judgments against them or were in arrears with
repayments for more than three months. "Can Eskom seriously consider adding its proposed increases to this picture of financial misery?"
asked Bolani. "Can it honestly propose an increase of triple the inflation rate, when consumers are facing current levels of financial hardship?"
He said the NCF would be urging Nersa to limit any Eskom increase to within the bounds of the inflation rate.
"The country as a whole - consumers and business alike - are required to live within the discipline of a contracting economy," he said. "How
dare Eskom consider itself so different that it requires such preferential treatment?" The NCF is a non-governmental organisation that
educates consumers about their rights, lobbies on consumer issues, and speaks out where it can on a range of challenges that
consumers -especially lower income earners -experience in their daily lives.