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ISLAMABAD: The National Electric Power Regulatory Authority (Nepra) has directed Discos and K-Electric (KE) to replace defective meters having an age of two months (running defective for two consecutive months), rectify wrong billing, and charge consumers on the actual data basis.

The distribution companies have been directed to comply with all the recommendations/ directions highlighted in the Inquiry Report and the GoP Inquiry Report on excessive/ wrong billing in violation of the Consumer Service Manual (CSM).

The authority had received numerous complaints from all across Pakistan regarding the charging of excessive and wrong bills by Discos and Karachi Electric Limited (KEL) to the consumers on account of the delay in monthly meter readings, average billing, and meter reading without snaps, etc., resultantly, protected/ lifeline billing status/ tariff of less user consumers was changed to non-protected/ non-lifeline in the months of July 2023 and August 2023.

Regulator’s warning: Power sector will be doomed if Discos fail to mend their ways

The authority provided an opportunity of hearing to the Distribution Companies on September 13, 2023. However, the Discos failed to submit any cogent justification; hence, the authority constituted an inquiry committee comprising Nepra professionals to probe further into the matter and submit its comprehensive report in this regard for consideration of the authority.

The committee submitted its report which revealed numerous violations of applicable documents on the part of all Discos. The details of discrepancies, violations and contraventions were clearly mentioned in the Inquiry Report which was also published on the Nepra’s official website on December 4, 2023.

According to Nepra, despite the publication of the report on the Nepra’s official website, the Discos failed to take remedial measures and resolve the billing issues as highlighted in the inquiry report.

Resultantly, the authority decided to initiate legal proceedings against the delinquents and explanations were issued to all the Distribution Companies on December 22, 2023, under Regulation 4(1) and (2) of Nepra (Fines) Regulations, 2021 to either admit or deny the occurrences of the violation(s) reflected in the Inquiry Report within 15 days. In response, the Distribution Companies submitted the replies; however, after thorough examination the same were found unsatisfactory by the authority.

The Power Division also constituted an independent committee to inquire into the issues of excessive billing and other matters raised by Nepra in the Inquiry Report. The report of the GoP Inquiry Committee of December 26, 2023, was received in Nepra on February 12, 2024. The GoP Inquiry Report also highlighted areas of improvement.

The authority has reasonable cause to believe that the violation has in fact occurred; however, instead of forthwith issuing directions to the registrar to issue show-cause notice to the Distribution Companies under the Fine Regulations, the authority has decided to issue this directive in the larger interest of the consumers and the sector to afford an opportunity to the Distribution Companies to redress the grievance of the consumers.

In view of thereof, the Authority issued the following directions to the Distribution Companies: (i) Distribution Companies to comply with all the recommendations/ directions highlighted in the Inquiry Report and GoP Inquiry Report; (ii) Distribution Companies shall replace all defective meters immediately having age above two months. Data of such meters be retrieved and the consumers be charged actual reading instead of excessive/ average billing; (iii) Distribution Companies shall coordinate with Power Information Technology Company (PITC) and review all the inflated charged bills since June 2023 and onwards which caused conversion of billing category from protected/ lifeline consumers into unprotected/ non-lifeline due to charging of billing cycle of 30 days and to revise bills on pro-rata basis to provide due benefit to the consumers without compromising on their status of protected/ lifeline consumers as the case may be. As the electricity billing record of LESCO is not maintained by PITC, therefore, LESCO shall scrutinise its own record and take similar action, accordingly. Additionally, LESCO is hereby directed to ensure that electricity billing record must be shared and synchronised with PITC in imminent future similar to other distribution companies; (iv) Distribution Companies shall initiate proceedings against the concerned officers/ officials for violation of provisions of CSM and other applicable documents as per their service rules on account of carrying out such illegal practices; (v) HESCO, SEPCO, TESCO and PESCO shall circle-wise scrutinise each un-recovered detection bill(s) charged during July 2018 to June, 2023 to check their authenticity and ensure the recovery of the same. In case it is proved that the detection bills were charged wrongly, the revenue, as well as, the billed units be reversed and the amount appearing as receivable be adjusted accordingly. Subsequently, action be taken against the concerned field formations, i.e., SDO and XEN for violation of provisions of CSM while charging such detection bills. MEPCO, QESCO and LESCO shall immediately recover the unpaid detection bills charged during July 2018 to June 2023 and; (vi) all the Distribution Companies should strictly follow the provisions of CSM and tariff terms and conditions in true letter and spirit especially carry out in meter readings in billing cycle of 30 days, printing of percentage checking to ensure accuracy of meter readings, issuance of detection bills, replacement of defective meters, etc. Moreover, Discos are further directed to educate their officers/ officials about the Nepra Act, tariff terms and conditions, CSM, consumer eligibility criteria, etc.

The Nepra has further directed that all Discos to comply with this directive and rectify/ address all the discrepancies pointed hereinabove within one month/ billing cycle and the compliance report with respect to the aforementioned directions shall reach this office within 30 days of the receipt of this directive.

The Nepra has asked the Discos to comply with this directive; otherwise, it will be constrained to issue show-cause notice under regulation 4 of the Fine Regulations for the proceedings already initiated and initiate any other proceedings as provided in any other applicable provision of law.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2024

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Sakhawat Ali Khan Feb 24, 2024 09:02am
LESCO billing is also maintained by PITC
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