ECJ: Different Height of Electric Meters in Bulgarian Roma Districts May Be Justified

Bulgaria in EU | September 20, 2012, Thursday // 15:40|  views

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The Advocate General of the EU Court of Justice believes the installation of electricity meters higher up electricity poles in streets in the Roma districts of the northwestern Bulgarian town of Montana may be justified as long as it is aimed at preventing fraud and manipulations and it contributes to the provision of quality electricity supplies in the interest of all consumers.

The Advocate General's Opinion on the case is cited by the Bulgarian Telegraph Agency (BTA).

The matter is reviewed in connection with a reference for a preliminary ruling from the Bulgarian Commission for Protection against Discrimination about whether the installation of electricity meters at different heights in the districts of Ogosta and Kosharnik in Montana constitutes a discriminatory measure.

According to the Advocate General's Opinion, at first sight it appears that the case involves indirect discrimination on the basis of ethnic origin.

However, the Advocate General believes that the measure is justified if it aims to curb thefts and guarantee electricity supplies to the other clients of the power distributors.

The dispute stems from the fact that in Montana's Ogosta and Kosharnik Roma districts, as well as in some other Bulgarian cities, electric meters are attached to electricity poles at a height of 7 meters, while elsewhere the devices are placed at a height of up to 1.70 meters, usually in the consumer's home, on the outside of the building or on surrounding fences.

The complaint filed to Bulgaria's anti-discrimination watchdog states that the installation of electric meters at a different height constitutes a manifestation of discrimination based on ethnic origin.

The  Advocate General advises the ECJ to assume that the appealed measure is justified if no other equally efficient and financially affordable measures can be taken which would have less unpleasant consequences for the population of the said districts.

The Advocate General backs the established approach as long as it is not too damaging to the residents of the respective districts, noting that the evaluation of the step should take into account the risk of stigmatizing an ethnic group and the interest of consumers of checking and monitoring their individual meter readings on a regular basis.

The press release also says that the Opinion is related to a reference for a preliminary ruling from the Bulgarian Commission for Protection against Discrimination but the ECJ does not solve the domestic argument and the watchdog must come up with a stance on the case in line with the ECJ decision.

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Tags: EU Court of Justice, Roma population, Montana, Northwestern Bulgaria, discrimination, Commission for Protection against Discrimination


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