Coming to the aid of consumers, the Joint Electricity Regulatory Commission (JERC) has directed the Chandigarh electricity department to pay interest to consumers on advance consumption demand (ACD) charges.
The decision was taken by the commission following a petition filed by the Industrial Area Tenants Association. In its order, the commission stated, “The consumers are entitled for interest on ACD charges from the date of commencement of Electricity Act 2003 or date of payment of security deposit by the consumers, whichever is later."
The department has been charging ACD - a refundable security charge - from customers by asking them to pay an amount equal to their electricity bill for two months, which is calculated after taking out the monthly average of their consumption for a year.
The commission had passed an order on November 20 2013 with directions to the electricity department that it would not charge ACD from consumers who were prepared to opt for prepaid meters under regulation 6.10 (10) of the JERC Electricity Supply Code of 2010, thus making it obligatory for the licensee to supply power through installation of a prepaid meter to a person if he opted for a prepaid connection.
The commission had also directed the UT electricity department to procure prepaid meters within six months from the date of order. Under the directions, if any consumer applies for installation of prepaid meters within a month from the date of the issue of the order, and also provides prepaid meter, the department will not ask for the ACD.
Whereas, if a consumer does not do so, the electricity department will be at liberty to charge them the ACD, under regulation 6.10 of the JERC Electricity Supply Code 2010.
Till date, the electricity department has failed to give relief to consumers who have applied for prepaid meters by not exempting them from ACD charges.
There are nearly 2.5 lakh consumers in the city out of which 1.75 lakh fall in the domestic category. According to sources, the electricity department had received applications from a large number of consumers - both commercial and residential - for installation of prepaid meters.
The commission has now directed the electricity department to approve list of manufacturers of prepaid meter and frame a software and policy for prepaid meters within six months from orders issued on November 20, 2013. The department has further been directed to accept ACD charges from the petitioners' association in form of bank guarantee according to the JERC regulations so that members of the petitioner association do not face problem of cash crunch in depositing ACD charges.