The electricity sector grudgingly decides to play its part in providing relief to households during the pandemic, but the inconsistencies in billing still prevail
When the government of Sindh decided to impose the lockdown following the outbreak of the novel coronavirus in early March, utility providing companies were requested to adjust household bills for the month to be paid in installments. The request was made to provide relief to the residents of the province during these trying times.
The Chief Minister of Sindh Murad Ali Shah in his lockdown address requested companies including K-Electric to adjust bills under Rs5,000 for the month of March in the next 10 months. The request was, however, rejected by the company and it instead decided to extend only the due dates of bills under Rs4,000 to April 10, 2020.
Billing implementation for residents
But recently the utility providing company has come under fire for applying average base charges to households. These amounts are much higher than bill payments from previous months.
On April 6, Syed Bilal, a member of Halaat Updates, posted that his bill for the month of March amounted to Rs13,709 while he had only been paying Rs2,000 monthly since the past three months. In the absence of a meter-reader to record units in person, the company had billed residents a higher amount based on average household consumption.
However, the government of Sindh took notice of the issue and in a video message, Syed Nasir Hussain Shah, the minister of information once again requested K-E to reconsider the billing method.
The electricity sector promises to keep the lights on
Upon complaints received by the National Electric Power Regulatory Authority, the power distributing company has been asked to defer its bills for March.
In a statement, the regulator said that KE management has decided to allow households who have already received bills to pay their March dues in April without any additional late payment charges.
Moreover, it also mentioned that the bills for April will be based on actual meter reading in some areas.
In a press release on April 8, K-E stated that it “has implemented relief measures such as due date extension for bills below Rs4,000 along with the option of deferred payment via instalments over three months to residential single phase customers consuming less than 300 units a month, which was announced as part of the PM Relief for COVID-19. The KE has also decided to continue the said instalments for April’s bill as well.”
The company said it wanted to implement these measures to reduce the burden on consumers during this time of crisis. “At a time when the K-E’s foremost responsibility of ensuring uninterrupted power supply is more critical than ever before, the power utility’s essential staff is working on rotation from vital locations, such as generation plants and load dispatch centres.”
As a result, meter readers have resumed their duties in selected areas to avoid billing based on average usage. As for areas not covered by the workers, customers will continue to receive their bills under the revised average billing mode.
Despite these measures, some residents are still faced with inflated electricity bills without any accountability. Nimra Khan, a member of the group Question Updates, posted that her late payment charges are much higher than the actual bill payment. Who will probe into this?