ISLAMABAD: Taking a lenient view of massive over-billing charges across the country in July-August 2023, the National Electric Power Regulatory Authority (Nepra) on Friday did not even issue show-cause notices to the delinquent power companies, holding them accountable for up to 100 per cent overcharging and other wrongdoings. Instead, Nepra asked them to compensate consumers through upcoming bills to the extent of additional burden.

Earlier in December, the regulator through an investigation report had established that all the Discos were found to have over charged consumers to the extent of 100pc in July-August 2023 through various discrepancies, extended billing cycles etc. The regulator had held that 100pc bills of all Discos, including K-Electric, contained various types of discrepancies.

This actually called into question the integrity of the entire revenue stream of the Discos, including KE, from meter-reading to billing, and from faulty meters to penalties and recoveries. This also raised the larger moral and professional questions, not only of the power sector bureaucracy but also the ongoing countrywide ‘anti-theft and recovery campaign’.

Only a week ago, on Feb 15, the regulator had announced at a public hearing that it was dissatisfied with the Disco’s responses to the excessive billing charges and would hold them accountable. The regulator also declared that it had decided to issue formal show-cause notices within a couple of days and the matter would be concluded within a month.

Asks to compensate consumers

While what transpired during the following week is unknown, the regulator appeared to have changed its course as reported in its order. It said the Nepra “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 Discos under the Fine Regulations, it has decided to issue this directive in the larger interest of the consumers and the sector to afford an opportunity to the Discos to redress the grievance of the consumers”.

As such, it directed all Discos and KE to “rectify/address all the discrepancies” within a month/billing cycle and submit compliance report within 30 days. “In case of failure of Discos to comply with this directive, the authority will be constrained to issue a 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,” the regulator said.

It directed the all the Discos to “strictly follow” the consumer service manual (CSM) and terms of tariff in true letter and spirit, especially to carry out 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., and educate their officers and staff about the tariff rules, etc.

Published in Dawn, February 24th, 2024

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