CHENNAI: Already grappling with the COVID-19 fallout, state electricity board consumers were in for a shock on receiving their bills for the month of June.
"I paid my electricity bill judiciously in the month of April when officials failed to take the reading due to the COVID-19 outbreak," recalls PR Vijayraghavan, a former employee of Air India. To his shock now, he has now been charged Rs 9,000 for the last four months.
"State electricity board officials are computing the units of power consumed for four months based on the table given without taking into account the usual free units offered to consumers," rues Vijayraghavan.
“If you are getting 100 free units bimonthly, now instead of getting 200 free units for four months, you get only 100 units depriving the customer of another 100 units. As the charges are higher for more units, customers are forced to pay more,” he says.
Interestingly, Vijayaraghavan is not the sole consumer who has been fleeced by the state elecricity board. Praveen, a student who had taken a room to complete his studies in a private college, was in for a surprise when the state electricity board slapped a bill of Rs 5,740.
"I vacated my room on March 15 and am not in Chennai for the last 70 days, how come the bill got this high with zero usage of power," he tweeted while posting the bill.
TANGEDCO had earlier said that since its assessors would not be able to note meter readings due to the COVID-19 situation, domestic consumers were asked to pay the bill according to their bill for January-February. Now that assessors have resumed taking readings, consumers are billed for accumulated readings.
Now, TANGEDCO has to focus on remedying the situation and protecting consumers, especially from lower economic backgrounds, from this shock, said Vishnu K of the Citizen Consumer and Civic Action Group.
"TANGEDCO has to rationalise the meter readings. The bill has to be in line with the consumer's historic consumption. Considering that the summer consumption is usually higher than winter consumption, TANGEDCO can ask them to pay their last summer bill and 10% in addition and allow them to pay it over a period of 2-3 months up to a year depending on their financial capability," he said.