AFTER SEEKING an explanation from Adani Electricity Mumbai Limited (AEML) over complaints of inflated bills, the Maharashtra Electricity Regulatory Commission (MERC) on Friday constituted a two-member committee to probe the reasons behind the increase in the electricity bills received by residents of Mumbai and suburban areas and to recommend corrective measures.
MERC Chairman Anand Kulkarni, while addressing the media on Friday, said that the commission had taken suo motu cognizance of the issue following media reports and sought an explanation from the company.
“The AEML representative had said that on an average, about 1.10 lakh of its 27 lakh residential consumers have received bills with about 20 per cent increase in the amount. Some of the reasons given by the AEML included the high temperature and high humidity levels in October as well as recovery of the past dues of fuel adjustment charges,” he added.
Citing a strike by the billing employees during the initial period of handover of ownership from Reliance Infrastructure to AEML, the company had claimed that as metre reading was not available at that time, around 3.53 lakh bills were issued on average consumption basis, said Kulkarni.
“The commission prima facie feels that the increase in billed consumption for October appears to be unduly high. A more detailed inquiry is needed to verify the explanation from AEML. Thus, the commission has appointed a two-member committee to go into the reasons for sudden upsurge in the consumption or other reasons that might have led to an increase in electricity bills and recommend corrective measures,” said Kulkarni.
The two committee members are Information Commissioner Ajitkumar Jain and former MERC member Vijay Sonawane, a technical expert.
“We haven’t fixed the terms of reference for the committee as we don’t want to limit the scope of the inquiry. The committee will also check electricity bills of other distribution companies such as Tata Power, BEST and Maharashtra State Electricity Distribution Company Limited to see how they handled such an issue. It will also study the balance sheets of Reliance Infra, AEML and MERC orders,” said Kulkarni, adding that the committee is expected to give the report in two to three months.
Meanwhile, the MERC, as an interim measure, has directed the AEML to verify the metered consumption of consumers during the period in question. “If excess billing is found, the same should be refunded with interest as per norms. The AEML should organise special camps to address consumers complaints about excessive billing. All these measures are meant to ensure that the distribution companies do not increase electricity bills beyond rates and levies approved by the MERC. We will keep a watch on the AEML for a month from December 10 to see if it is following the directives,” Kulkarni said.
Welcomes the setting up of the committee, an AEML spokesperson reiterated that the higher billing for a section of customers was due to higher consumption and shifting of slabs. Metered consumption was higher due to a change in scenario from September to October, which had a similar pattern in 2017.
“AEML is committed to its customers and will continue to follow all guidelines and tariff norms laid down by the
MERC. We remain completely open and transparent to the fact-finding committee and we will continue to respond to all our customers that have any query on billing issues,” the spokesperson added.