An investigative report by the National Electric Power Regulatory Authority (NEPRA) unveiled a disconcerting situation in Pakistan, affecting thousands of electricity consumers during the months of July and August this year.
The report disclosed that distribution companies (Discos) had billed consumers for over 40 days, a major contributor to the issue of overbilling in the mentioned months. Notably, MEPCO, followed by GEPCO, FESCO, LESCO, and HESCO, were identified as the Discos significantly involved in this overbilling, implicating all Discos collectively in this unjustified practice.
As a response to these findings, NEPRA recommended initiating legal proceedings against the power distribution companies, including K-Electric Limited (KEL), under NEPRA Fine Regulations, 2021. The basis for these actions lies in the violation of the provisions outlined in the NEPRA Act, Consumer Service Manual (CSM), and tariff terms and conditions.
Expressing concern, NEPRA emphasised the unfortunate deliberate malpractices by distribution companies undertaken to conceal their inefficiencies. These practices resulted in higher electricity bills for thousands of consumers.
The report highlighted the failure of Discos to adhere to the percentage checking mechanism outlined in the Consumer Service Manual (CSM), along with the unauthorised charging of detection bills, contravening Clauses 9.1 and 9.2 of the CSM, which provide a specific procedure for charging detection bills.
NEPRA noted with concern that detection bills charged by Discos were found to be fake and frivolous, contributing to a significantly low recovery ratio in certain Discos.
The authority initiated an inquiry in response to widespread complaints from consumers across the country regarding excessive, inflated, and erroneous bills during July and August 2023. A hearing was conducted on November 13, 2023, wherein CEOs of all distribution companies participated online, presenting their perspectives.
During the proceedings, it was observed that numerous distribution companies were charging metre readings, with discrepancies between snap readings and the readings recorded on consumers’ bills.
Additionally, some cases were identified where snaps of metre readings were either invisible or intentionally not taken. Monthly metre readings were reported to be taken beyond the standard billing cycle of 30 days in certain instances, leading to undue and inflated charging of upper slab bills for less frequent users and a consequent change in category from protected to unprotected.