KARACHI, March 29: A large number of domestic consumers have been receiving inflated gas bills for the past few months but their complaints to the Sui Southern Gas Company Limited have fallen on deaf ears.
Scores of people living in different parts of the city, including Gulshan-i- Iqbal, PECHS and Defence, said their bills started increasing exponentially six months back and in recent months they had doubled, and in some cases tripled.
Many had their connections checked for leakages, but even then their bills crossed the Rs1,000 mark while only a year back, they said, they were being charged only around Rs200 per month.
Ashraf Khan, a resident of PECHS Block 2, said his gas bills used to be around Rs250 until last September, when he was charged Rs2,000. He lodged a complaint with the company but even then he was kept on billed at an average of Rs1,000 per month.
“In the 1990s, the SSGC used to be a good utility, when customer complaints were addressed and sorted out immediately. But today, like the Karachi Electric Supply Company, this company too is going down the drain,” the frustrated customer said.
Sahil, a resident of Gulshan-i-Iqbal’s Block 16, was billed Rs6,000 for February. The Customer Services Division general manager (billing), retired major Mohammad Akhtar, referred the matter to his complaint officer.
The officer alleged that a faulty meter had been installed at his flat for the last five years (2002-2007) and that was why he had been charged around Rs200 per month for that period. He said the company was now gradually recovering its ‘losses’ after replacement of the meter.
The customer was told that it was his fault that he did not point out the matter to the company. When asked why the alleged fault was not detected by representatives who visited the consumer every month for those years to note down readings, the officer said the fault could only be detected through the bill and not by looking at the meter.
When asked why the bill was not checked by the company before releasing it to the customer, the officer ran out of excuses and finally said: “This is Pakistan”.
The officer said the company was recovering dues “only” for 12 months as a matter of policy instead of five years.
A 60-plus woman who looked disoriented at the lavish SSGC head office had a similar complaint. She said in the past her bills would be around Rs150, but starting this year her bills had exceeded Rs1,500. She said that another complaint officer had told her that she should forget about her past bills and pay the present bills.
Zubair, resident of Seaview, said until last September his average bill was Rs500, which first shot up to Rs1,500 and then four months later to Rs5,000. He still gets bills exceeding Rs1,000 and as yet nothing has come out of his complaints. Reema, resident of Mausamyaat, said her average bill used to be Rs300 but now Rs800-plus bills had become the norm.
Meanwhile, in an official response to Dawn queries, the retired major denied any “concept of inflated bills”. He said that about 17,500 faulty meters had been replaced, but “the responsibility has never been placed on the customer”. He blamed the increase in gas bills on seasonal changes, additional gas loads such as geysers, gas generators, etc.