Go to suppliers' consumer forum: Maharashtra Electricity Regulatory Commission tells consumers
Says billing grievances need to be adjudicated by CGRF mechanism; consumers accused power companies of exorbitant bills during lockdown
Power consumers who have accused suppliers of billing them exorbitantly, will have to go to the company's (supplier's) Consumer Grievance Redressal Forum (CGRF), instead of moving the Maharashtra Electricity Regulatory Commission (MERC) to seek justice.
Giving directions while dismissing a petition moved by ex-MP Kirit Somaiya against the state-owned MahaVitaran (MSEDCL), the MERC asked the leader to take up other routes. He had filed the petition on behalf of all consumers in Mumbai and Maharashtra who received inflated bills July 2020 onwards. He had requested MERC's intervention to address the concern in the novel Coronavirus pandemic, when consumers are financially stressed.
Approach the CGRF
MahaVitaran contended that the PIL cannot be decided by the commission as per the past judgments of the Supreme Court and Appellate Tribunals. It said billing related grievances need to be adjudicated by the CGRF mechanism constituted under the Electricity Act. Somaiya argued that his prayer be treated as a public appeal.
Citing past judgments and instances before the UP Electricity Regulatory Commission, which also dismissed a PIL, MERC said it found no reason to entertain these appeals. However, the Commission directed the licensees/distribution companies to hear the complaints and decide whether the supplementary/amended bills issued by them were proper.
The order means a relief for all four distribution companies which were at the receiving end for issuing inflated bills for the lockdown period of three months. The consumption was metered but the meter readings were not taken. The companies billed consumers based on the average consumption and adjusted the amount in next billing cycles. However, countless complaints were made, accusing the companies of billing closed establishments.
Following complaints of overbilling, the MERC had directed distribution utilities to give consumers a facility to pay in three equated monthly instalments. It had asked the companies to be more transparent in billing and gear up for redressing consumer grievances within a day of their receipt.
The commission had also justified higher bills saying that they were raised on actual meter readings for the summer months when the consumption was normally higher and costlier than the winter months billing, which was used for average billing for the lockdown period.
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