The Appellate Tribunal for Electricity (APTEL) has instructed the Kerala State Electricity Board (KSEB) to refund service connection charges ‘unauthorisedly collected’ from HT and EHT consumers in the state. The July 3 APTEL order came on a petition filed by the Kerala HT/EHT Industrial Electricity Consumers’ Association.
The APTEL overruled an earlier order by the Kerala State Electricity Regulatory Commission that the KSEB need not refund service connection charges collected after a certain date. The APTEL order instructed the KSEB to refund the charges collected after this date with simple interest of 10 per cent from the date of collection to the date of refund. The KSEB introduced the service connection charge in October 1998 to recover a portion of the cost incurred by it when giving service connections.
This was prompted by the fact that the KSEB was shelling out large sums for strengthening its generation, transmission and distribution networks. In effect, with the introduction of the service charge, consumers began to bear a part of the cost of strengthening the KSEB system. In December 2009, the HT/EHT consumers association argued before the Kerala State Electricity Regulatory Commission that the levy was illegal with the introduction of the Kerala Electricity Supply Code 2005. On September 8, 2010, the Commission passed orders saying that the collection of service connection charges from March 2, 2005 - the date on which the supply code came into effect - was illegal.
This order also directed the KSEB to stop collecting the charges. Whether the illegally collected charges were to be refunded or not was taken up in a separate order. In April 2012, the Commission issued the orders saying that although the charges levied after March 2, 2005, were not legal, the amount collected up to September 7, 2010, need not be refunded as it was already treated as revenue of the KSEB and the Aggregate Revenue Requirement and the Expected Revenue from Charges (ARR&ERC), in a nutshell the annual budget of the KSEB, was already approved. The Kerala HT/EHT Industrial Electricity Consumers’ Association had approached the APTEL against this order calling it contradictory to the earlier Commission order which held that the levy collected after March 2, 2005, was illegal.