The Financial Express

Sufferings from utility services during pandemic   

| Updated: June 28, 2020 22:29:24

Evaly and Fianancial Express Evaly and Fianancial Express
Sufferings from utility services during pandemic    

As the days under the pandemic pass by, sufferings of people from inefficiencies and irresponsible behaviour of utility service providers are increasing. Instead of assisting the consumers, a section of employees of these service providers are using every opportunity to extract money from them. Moreover, the service providers are now moving aggressively to collect the dues or arrears.

In a bid to contain the spread of coronavirus, the government earlier declared that the consumers would be allowed deferred payment of utility bills without any penalty or fine by the end of June this year. Initially, it came as a relief for most of the households or retail electricity consumers. But the relief was short-lived as a large number of consumers faced excess or abnormal bill for the month of April. Authorities, however, assured that additional amount would be adjusted once the meter readers collect the actual reading from door to door. To maintain social distance and partial lockdown, meter readers stopped going to houses to collect the reading. Instead, the service providers have started to prepare bills taking averages of previous three months as a rule of thumb.  But by going to do this, there is a big mess-up. In most cases, the staffs put reading according to their own whim and didn't bother to follow the guideline of average billing.

When consumers raised objection regarding inflated bills, the authorities mostly kept mum and in many cases, denied such allegation. Instead, they argued that they didn't receive any complaint in this regard. The insensitivity of the service providers has widened the malpractice of the power supply companies' employees and staffs. They have started to charge more on consumers. The result is inflated bills. Even in some cases, the meter readers visited the houses and took the reading but didn't adjust bills correctly.

Though the state minister for power and energy has assured all not to be worried about the inflated bills and asserted that smooth adjustment would take place, ground reality is still different.

While sufferings of electricity consumers are big, many consumers of pipe-lined gas are also facing difficulty in paying bills. Staffs of gas service providers like Titas are harassing non-meter consumers by not giving them bill books and not updating the already paid bills. In many cases, the staffs are asking the consumers to go to bank and collect documents to prove that their bills have actually been paid. Though the customer copies of the bill books have bank stamp  on them as proof of payment in due time, the Titas staffs  ignore it.

These incidents are good enough to expose how bad governance has gripped the utility service providers. There is very little attention on providing hassle-free services to consumers. A section of unscrupulous staff is always busy to make the digitisation of bill processing and payment dysfunctional and compel the consumers to spend extra money to get their due services like arrear bill adjustment. Coronavirus doesn't prevent them to continue their malpractices, rather seem to have provided a new opportunity to harass the consumers.


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