The June 2020 bill had included the partial consumption of the past two months when meter could not be read due to the lockdown
KOLKATA: Faced with a barrage of complaints on over-billing following hefty bills that consumers have received in June, CESC has decided to revise the bill and collect only the amount for the electricity consumed in June while keeping in abeyance the balance.
The June 2020 bill had included the partial consumption of the past two months when meter could not be read due to the lockdown. This decision affects 26 lakhs domestic consumers. CESC had earlier announced a scheme to pay the June bill in three instalments following the outpouring of consumers’ anger on social media.
The Sunday evening decision by CESC chairman Sanjeev Goenka followed a missive from the power department to explain how the June bill was computed.
Sources said there were indications that given the discontentment brewing among citizens over the billing issue, there was a possibility of a probe being ordered into allegations of CESC overcharging consumers by calculating the bill at higher slab rates.
“In consideration of the inconvenience of certain sections of society, we have decided to keep in abeyance the amount for the last two months included in the current bills of all domestic consumers. Such consumers will now pay only the amount pertaining to their consumption for the current month,” CESC managing director (distribution) Debasis Banerjee told TOI.
CESC managing director (distribution) Debasis Banerjee added that details in this regard are being worked out considering suitable regulatory guidelines. Meanwhile, the due date has been extended by 10 days.
Though CESC has denied the allegation and issued advertisements to assuage consumers, the power minister was unhappy with the clarification as it did not explain how the slabs had been computed.
Earlier in the day, an SMS was sent out to consumers with a link to view an interview with Banerjee where he clarified various aspects of billing. But the events that followed in the evening appear to have clearly overtaken such attempts to assuage consumers, leading to the dramatic decision to recall the June bill.
With the 2020 bill comprising the difference between units recorded in the latest meter reading and the previous one in March minus the units charged in the provisional bills issued for April and May, it isn’t clear how the utility will determine how many units were consumed in June. Sources said one way could be to bill the same amount consumed in June 2019. It is also undecided on what would happen to consumers who had already paid the bill.
Power minister Sovondeb Chattopadhyay said CESC should have been more transparent in explaining the bill to consumers when there were allegations that the units were computed on higher slab rates. “The company should also have clearly laid out the issue of provisional bills in April and May,” he added.
In electricity, there are various slabs with different charges per unit of electricity consumed. Above 300 units, consumers are billed at a flat rate of Rs 8.92 per unit. But there are six slabs prior to that in which the unit cost varies from Rs 4.89 per unit to Rs 7.33 per unit. Consumers have alleged that the utility combined the units combined in June with the balance units consumed in April and May that had not been billed to drive up the slab rate. CESC has maintained that it had used the regulatory framework to arrive at the appropriate slab and that it had not overcharged consumers.