BANGALORE: Next time you get your electricity bill, carefully read the fine print on the back of the bill.
It now says that you will be given a grace period of 15 days from the date of generation of the bill to pay your dues. If not paid, the bill itself will serve as a notice for disconnection.
Power utility BESCOM has quietly put in place this process by replacing a consumer-friendly initiative of sending notices to houses warning of disconnection.
The process of sending notices itself was modified to pasting stickers on the doors of consumers after a 30-day grace period.
Started in August 2012, it was beset with problems. After receiving several complaints of security guards not allowing linemen access to apartment blocks, BESCOM decided to paste these stickers on the meter boxes to which linemen could not be denied access. A move that was widely welcomed and publicised at the time, this has now been replaced with printing a notice at the back of the bill itself.
While this might save BESCOM the costs of printing stickers, it will just have to be a bitter lesson for those who choose to ignore this fine print.
“The cost of printing the stickers and the process of notice was deemed to be an unwanted cost for the company. We now serve notices on the bill itself. The customer should read that and pay his bills to avoid interruption in supply,” said a senior official.
However, with none of the publicity which followed the earlier scheme, many seem to have missed it. Like Rishi Bannerjee, a resident of Old Airport Road.
He said, “We had a bill pending from the previous month and since it was time for the next bill to come, we were waiting to settle it in one go. However, even before I got my second bill in my hand, the meter reader came and disconnected power supply. On calling the helpline, I was told to go to the nearest office and sort out the issue. The least they could have done was given us the bill and told us about the new process of disconnection”.
Another problem with the bill is the quality of the paper and the hard-to-read printing. For people who cannot read Kannada, the issue is compounded as the notice is printed only in the local language.
“If you come to Karnataka, you should learn to read and write the local language. There was a big hue and cry when we printed bills in English, so we shifted to Kannada. If we put the notices in both languages, it will result in the length of the bill increasing,” the official said.
Interestingly, the Consumer Handbook available on the BESCOM site still lists the sticker method as being in force.