Inflated bills: Don’t cut power supply, allow EMI, says MERCUpdated: Jun 30, 2020 00:51 IST
The Maharashtra Electricity Regulatory Commission (MERC) on Monday issued directives for utility firms, including providing the option of easy monthly instalments (EMI) and not disconnecting power supply over non-payment of dues until grievances are redressed. According to MERC, only 6.35 lakh consumers across state were billed on actual meter readings during the lockdown, which is approximately 2.32% of the total consumer base.
Following reports of inflated bills, MERC held a meeting with heads of all the four distribution licensees on June 27. In a statement released on Monday, MERC said that if one’s bill is more than double of the average for the amount charged during March to May, consumers should be given the option of dividing the payment into three EMIs. It has also asked utility firms to “set-up a robust monitoring mechanism”, like a dedicated help-desk or a grievance officer at all sub/divisions and divisional offices to address queries from consumers within a day of their receipt. Power supply cannot be disconnected until consumers have been given the option of EMIs and their grievances redressed, MERC stated.
Consumers should also be provided with online software for them to self-check bills and meter readings must be rechecked on a suo motu basis if excessive consumption is noticed, said MERC. If they are not satisfied with their utility provider’s response, consumers have the option of reaching out to the electricity ombudsman. “The commission is keeping vigil on the billing issues and would not like any consumer to be put to any undue inconvenience by the distribution licensees,” MERC stated.
Owing to the lockdown, actual meter reading was disconnected in March-end, following which consumers were billed on average consumption based on three months prior to March 2020, which were winter months. “The present bills raised on actual meter readings are of summer months where the consumption is normally high and the bills are always of higher amounts,” MERC said. However, thousands of consumers have complained they’ve been charged two to three times their normal usage.
A senior member of the regulatory body said, “The utilities have also been directed to shift to automated meter reading in a year’s time, which will help accurate meter readings without human intervention and billing grievances will be reduced to a large extent.”
According to MERC, only 6,35,746 consumers across Maharashtra were billed on actual meter reading during the lockdown period (see box), which is merely 2.32% of the total consumers. However, MERC has already approved installation of 7 lakh meters for Adani Electricity Mumbai Limited (AEML) and 66,000 meters for Tata Power, it stated.
After Pannu, other celebs complain
Following actor Taapsee Pannu who took to Twitter on Sunday to complain about a high electricity bill, more celebrities like actor Huma S Qureshi, producer Tanujj Garg and RJ Malishka tweeted about the issue on Monday. Former news anchor Faye D’Souza also complained about getting an inflated bill. Qureshi said that she received a bill of ₹50,000 when she had paid ₹6,000 last month.
Consumers billed on meter-reading
Maharashtra State Electricity Distribution Company Limited: 6,11,537 of total 2.30 crore consumers in the state
Adani Electricity Mumbai Limited: 570 of 27 lakh consumers in Mumbai
Tata Power: 23,446 of over 7 lakh consumers in Mumbai
Brihanmumbai Electric Supply and Transport Undertaking: 193 of 10.5 lakh consumers in the island city