No. 07-00-259/2018-02 Date: 10 August 2018
The opinion was issued in the procedure regarding the complaint filed by N.V. of S. against the Municipality of Senta and the Public Enterprise “E.” S. for discrimination on the grounds of property status as a personal characteristic. The complaint stated that the adoption of the Rulebook on the Method of Cost Allocation and Billing of Final Customers for Delivered Thermal Energy, at the session of the Municipal Assembly of Senta on 30 December 2015, and the application thereof, created huge problems in practice and led to the emergence of a noticeable difference between consumers/users of thermal energy distributed, as provided for by the Rulebook, by the P.E. “E.” S. The complaint emphasised in particular that Article 6 of this Rulebook stipulates, inter alia, that in buildings with a common thermal energy consumption metering device where at least 80% of final customers have heat cost allocators in their apartments, individual consumption of thermal energy for customers who do not have allocators shall be determined relative to the number of pulses per square metre of the apartment or business premises having an installed allocator where the maximum consumption per square metre was metered. The complainant pointed out that she is a tenant of a building in which individual thermal energy consumption for customers who do not have allocators in their apartments is determined as described above. She further stated that she had been unemployed at the time of the installation of heat cost allocators and, for that reason, she was not able to install heat cost allocators on the heating devices in her apartment, and thus she was put in a less favourable position and her bills are, as a consequence of such billing method, significantly higher than they were prior to the application of the Rulebook. The complainant specifically pointed out that she does not have the financial means necessary for the purchase and installation of allocators, which for the four heating devices in her apartment amount to 200 euros. In its declaration the P.E. “E.” S. stated, among other things, that billing and charging for the thermal energy delivered for heating the apartment in which N.V. lives is done in the same manner as for two other individual units located in the same building which also do not have any allocators installed, all in accordance with Article 6 of the Rulebook on the Method of Cost Allocation and Billing of Final Customers for Delivered Thermal Energy. The declaration also stated that the P.E. “E.” S. is not authorised to carry out billing and charging for thermal energy in any other way, because it would be contrary to the applicable regulations, and that the constitutionality and legality of this provision has not been disputed before the Constitutional Court. The Municipality of Senta did not make any declarations regarding the allegations contained in the complaint, so the Commissioner for the Protection of Equality, when deciding in this case, had at its disposal only the claims of the complaint and evidence submitted by the complainant, as well as the claims contained in the declaration and evidence submitted by the P.E. “E.” S. In the course of the procedure it was established that the Rulebook on the Method of Cost Allocation and Billing of Final Customers for Delivered Thermal Energy was adopted by the Municipal Assembly of Senta on 30 December 2015, and that the P.E. “E.” S, in the performance of its activity of distribution of thermal energy, applies the regulations issued by the Municipality of Senta. The Commissioner pointed out that, in terms of the regulations on the prohibition of discrimination, the P.E. “E.” S. cannot be held responsible for the provisions prescribed by the Municipality of Senta in its general legal act which it is obliged to apply in its work. On the other hand, the Commissioner found that the application of the said Rulebook, which seemingly gives equal opportunities to all users to choose the way in which they will be billed for the delivered thermal energy, has put into a less favourable position those users of thermal energy who live in buildings having a common thermal energy consumption measuring device in which at least 80% of final customers have heat cost allocators in their apartments, and who, because of their poor financial situation, are not able to purchase them, in relation to the users of thermal energy whose consumption is not charged relative to somebody else’s highest consumption. Given all of the above, the Commissioner issued the opinion that the P.E. “E.” S. did not violate the provisions of the Law on the Prohibition of Discrimination, while the Municipality of Senta, by imposing a method of charging referred to in Article 6 of the Rulebook on the Method of Cost Allocation and Billing of Final Customers for Delivered Thermal Energy which had put in an unjustifiably less favourable position those persons who, due to their poor financial situation, are not able to introduce heat cost allocators, violated the provisions of Article 7 of the Law on the Prohibition of Discrimination. The Commissioner recommended the Municipality of Senta to align, in accordance with its competencies, the Rulebook on the Method of Cost Allocation and Billing of Final Customers for Delivered Thermal Energy with the provisions of the Law on the Prohibition of Discrimination.
|COMMISSINER FOR THE PROTECTION OF EQUALITY