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CCI bats for power buyers

business Updated: Aug 08, 2012 21:44 IST
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You are a step closer to choosing an electricity supplier, like you do your telecom service provider.

The Competition Commission of India (CCI) has decided to launch an investigation into the working of the power sector to see why consumers are being denied the right to choose their electricity suppliers.

Under the Electricity Act, 2003, consumers enjoy the freedom to choose the power supplier among many.

However, in practice, companies have been allocated areas without involving any competition.

"We will launch an investigation to see why consumers are being denied the much promised choice and where the problem lies in the last mile connectivity," Ashok Chawla, chairman, CCI told Hindustan Times.

Experts said the CCI's probe may actually come as a trigger to speed up the implementation of an open access regime that would empower consumers.

Consumer affairs specialist Pushpa Girimaji said private sector firms had replaced public sector distributors but still enjoyed a monopoly.

"Whenever there is monopoly, companies tend to become arrogant," she said.

The catch is that consumers will have to pay extra wheeling (transport) charges, but experts say consumers may be willing.

A senior power ministry official said that the ministry was working on enabling provisions to usher in multiple power suppliers.

"Amendments have been proposed to Section 42 of the Electricity Act, 2003 to allow consumers choose their power suppliers," he said.

In Delhi, the two distributors of power - Anil Ambani-led BSES and Tata-controlled NDPL - enjoy area-wise monopolies.

Once the amendments are moved, they can poach on consumers in each other's areas.

A high-powered committee is examining amendments in the Act.

There was an earlier plan to enable open access for industrial customers with usage of one megawatt and above. Now there is a plan to do away with the floor and throw open all sections to competition, sources said.