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Consumer Theft Behavior and Service Provision: Evidence from the Electricity Market in Senegal

Energy & Environment Senegal

Photo credit: wittybear via Adobe Stock Images

Study Context

Service providers in developing countries face high levels of financial and non-financial losses in the transmission and the distribution of their services. These losses can limit service providers’ ability to improve quality for existing customers and to expand service provision to new populations or with new types of products. In cases where the service is provided by a state-owned entity, losses can also translate into taxpayers subsidizing delinquent customers.


Despite being a major impediment to service provision, the impact of key service features on fraudulent behavior is sparsely documented at the customer level. This is because frauds are inherently challenging to detect, especially when they follow regular usage patterns, or when done by unregistered consumers. Confirming usage patterns that indicate fraud as verified fraud can require high monitoring costs and/or high legal costs.


In this study, Abdoulaye Cisse aims to answer the following questions:

  1. What are the socio-economic and usage characteristics that drive theft behavior of customers?
  2. Do consumers change their fraud behavior as service price and service quality change?
Study Design

Through an ongoing partnership agreement with a utility provider in Senegal, Abdoulaye has obtained access to rich electricity use data from 2012-2021. With this funding, Abdoulaye will collect primary data through surveys of several thousand customers. The two data sources will be linked to help researchers study consumer theft behavior, while taking into account the possibility that the utility provider selects and prioritizes certain customers over others in theft detection and the possibility to not detect certain theft incidents.

Results and Policy Lessons

Results forthcoming.


2023 — ongoing

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