Gujarat-based electricity distribution companies collected excess energy charges from consumers for 16 days last year. It took Paschim Gujarat Vij Company over eight months just to agree to credit the excess amount in the next bill of high-tension power supply consumers
Ahmedabad-based Consumer Education Research Society (CERS) was effective in getting Paschim Gujarat Vij Company Ltd (PGVCL) to refund excess energy charges collected from consumers of its high-tension (HT) power supply.
Electricity distribution companies (discoms) like PGVCL should have begun collecting higher energy charges from consumers from 1 June 2012, as per the tariff order passed by the Gujarat Electricity Regulatory Commission (GERC), but many of them began collecting an additional 10 paisa per unit from 16 May 2012. HT consumers normally consume more than one lakh units per month. It has been estimated that PGVCL has collected an excess Rs5 crore to Rs6 crore from its HT customers alone in this manner.
Gandhidham-based HT consumer GP Thacker, who is also the president of New Kandla & Kutch Salt Manufacturers Association, in August 2012, lodged a complaint with CERS about the energy charges collected by PGVCL.
CERS wrote to GERC with a copy to the managing director of PGVCL protesting the illegal collection of the additional charges, in violation of GERC Supply Code Regulations, and demanding a refund to all HT consumers.
PGVCL, in its reply, stated that as meter readings were taken on fixed dates, there is no provision that new readings have to be taken on 1 June 2012 to implement the new tariff. GERC did not compel PGVCL to refund money and kept silent.
CERS again wrote to GERC and demanded use of Section 142 of Electricity Act for imposing penalty of Rs1 lakh on PGVCL, which should be recovered from salaries of the company's managing director, chief executive and regulatory cell of PGVCL.
There was no reply from GERC but PGVCL wrote three letters to Mr Thacker without sending any correspondence to CERS. PGVCL, in its replies, once again stated that their programming could be changed and reiterated that the bills were fair.
CERS then took the matter more seriously and requested GERC chairman Dr PK Mishra to intervene, as it was a clear violation of Supply Code Regulations.
After this, senior officers of PGVCL decided to revise programming of their billing cycle. The Superintending Engineer from Bhuj Circle office of PGVCL, on 8 March 2013, wrote a letter stating that the company would credit wrongly collected excess money of HT consumers in their next electricity bills.
CERS is now requesting the Commission to direct other three discoms from Gujarat to refund such illegal amounts collected from all categories of consumers even if their monthly electricity consumption is small. CERS fears that these companies have collected similar amount from residential, commercial and low-tension consumers across the state.
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