Overbilling presses hard power consumers

Karachi: Corporate guys calls it ‘smart business’, politicians call it a ‘corporate looting’; however, hapless electricity consumers of Karachi find no option but to pay hugely inflated bills of Karachi Electric, the privately-owned power supply monopoly of the largest city of Pakistan.

In past the electricity consumers of Karachi had to face one curse ‘load shedding’ but now they also brave overbilling, with 30percent increased tariff as the icing on the cake. All political parties including Pakistan Peoples’ Party Parliamentarian (PPPP), Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), Pakistan Muslim League Functional (PML-F)and Pakistan Tehreek e Insaf (PTI) on the floor of Sindh Assembly had repeatedly condemned the atrocities of K-Electric towards the electricity consumers of Karachi. Outside the Sindh Assembly, Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) is the strong critic of K-Electric for its load shedding, increased tariff and overbilling. However, NEPRA, as well as, the federal government do not deem this political heat and hidden unrest of people worth a serious consideration.

Some consumers say most favourite modus operands of KE is not to send bill for a couple of months or send bills with Zero consumption and then suddenly issue a heavy bill of tens of thousands of rupees. To threaten the consumers this bill is often issued with ASSD mode which means the consumer is stealing electricity. These charges are levelled without load check and inspection of the premises of consumer by government appointed electrical inspector. When the consumers make hue and cry they are told to pay the bill in instalments. However, these bills are adjusted by writing adjusted amount on them and when a consumer goes to banks and post offices they refuse to entertain him on the plea that they only receive payments on computerized bills and not with handwritten correction on them.

Legal experts say this issue pertains to the consumer rights. Though the Sindh Assembly has already passed consumer rights protection bill but consumer courts are yet to function in the province. They say in developed countries consumer file cases under tort laws and not only get their complaints resolved but also get heavy compensations. However, in Pakistan there is no tort law and citizens suit culture.

KE sources, however, always maintain that they do not issue inflated bills to their consumers. They say they believe in corporate business ethics and they do not believe in overbilling and harassing consumers unnecessarily.

Consumers demand to issue bills as per actual meter reading. In case there is complaint of electricity theft the electricity supply should be immediately disconnected instead of sending ASSD mode bill which is tantamount to owning and legalizing electricity theft. Complaints of power theft should be immediately sent to government appointed electrical inspector for further processing. They suggest all sliver cables should be converted into anti-theft electric wires to stop the power theft for good.

Political parties demand to make public agreements of privatizations of KESC, papers of changing KESC into KE, details of golden handshake of employees and if the amount paid to them were recovered from consumers, accounting practices of billing along with full disclosure, third party technical/engineering check of electricity meters, and formula of electricity unit charge. They feel the KE is not doing justice with consumers and NEPRA and federal government are not taking notices of consumer rights violations.