A serviced apartment operator under Cheung Kong (Holdings) has been accused of breaching its contract agreement with CLP Power by reselling electricity to its tenants.
CLP Power said they were looking into the matter and would ask the company to stop if it found that electricity was being resold, while lawmaker Lee Wing-tat said he was concerned it could set a bad precedent.
The power-supply agreement between CLP Power and Horizon Hotels and Suites - a Cheung Kong subsidiary specialising in serviced apartments - states there can be no reselling of electricity to a third party, including apartment tenants.
But a tenant of Harbourfront Horizon in Hung Hom - one of the four serviced apartment blocks operated by Horizon Hotels and Suites - earlier complained to The South China Morning Post that the company had been billing him for electricity use. He found such a practice unusual.
Serviced apartments by other developers, such as Henderson Land's Pinnacle, Sino Land's Fraser Suites, Sun Hung Kai Property's Harbourview Place, and Shama run by Onyx Hospitality Group, all include electricity fees in the rent. The ones run by Cheung Kong charge tenants separately for electricity.
'The managing office has told me it will charge electricity fees based on my power consumption. They say there is a separate electricity meter installed for each tenant,' said the man, who refused to be named. Harbourfront Horizon has 1,662 suites.
The practice has raised many questions. Tenants are not told how the electricity bill is calculated. The meters are installed by the company, not CLP. While it is not clear if the tariff rate that Horizon is charging the tenants is higher than what CLP Power is charging it, it is also not clear whether the readings of the individual meters installed by Horizon tally with that of the umbrella meter installed by CLP for the entire building.
A spokeswoman for CLP Power said a CLP customer can install meters only for purposes other than resale, such as monitoring use.
'CLP does not allow its customers to charge an electricity tariff from a third party. We will investigate any suspected case brought to our attention,' she said. 'We are now clarifying with the customer.'
The spokeswoman said CLP charges the property at a commercial rate but declined to reveal how much, only saying that an average commercial tariff is between 90 cents and HK$1 per electricity unit - the rate Horizon charges its tenants.
Cheung Kong (Holdings) did not respond to inquiries.
Dr Chan Fuk-cheung, president of the Institution of Engineers, said even if Horizon did not overcharge its clients, using unofficial metres raised the question of their accuracy.
'The two power companies have specialists to make sure their meters are accurate. It is open to question whether the unauthorised meters used for billing are precise, and who is responsible for monitoring,' said Chan, also an engineer with CLP.
The Environment Bureau said there was no ordinance preventing the reselling of electricity. Lee, a member of the Legislative Council panel on environmental affairs, said such a practice could set a bad example.
'If there is really a resale, it would set a bad precedent because a breach doesn't seem to bring much consequence,' Lee said.
The lowest monthly rent, in Hong Kong dollars, for an apartment at Harbourfront Horizon, according to its website