The recent unveiling of the revised consumer service manual by power regulator Nepra, has sparked concerns amid an existing surplus in capacity and a notable downturn in electricity consumption. These concerns arise from the imposition of new charges and stringent measures on consumers. As Pakistan grapples with decreased electricity demand and a surplus in capacity, these regulations may exacerbate challenges for consumers and raise questions about their practicality and fairness.
The decision to enforce a 14% interest rate on bill instalments, even in cases of financial constraints, is poised to create additional burdens on consumers. While the initial instalment for the current bill is exempt from late payment surcharges or markups if paid within the due date, subsequent instalments incur a hefty 14% markup per year. This measure, ostensibly aimed at bill management, might adversely impact individuals facing economic challenges, amplifying their financial strain.
The ‘urgent fee’ for priority connections adds another layer of financial pressure on consumers seeking swift service. The proposed requirement for power distribution companies (Discos) to issue a demand notice promptly and ensure a connection within two working days post-payment might lead to an additional financial burden. Failure to meet these deadlines could result in refunds of the urgent fee but could also instigate unspecified disciplinary actions against responsible officials.
The current decline in electricity consumption, reported at 13% by power companies due to higher tariffs, further complicates this scenario. Nepra’s move to impose strict penalties, including ‘detection bills’ equivalent to five years of power consumption, on instances of electricity theft or suspicious consumption like slow or defective meters might add financial woes for consumers.
The unveiling of this revised manual introduces a stricter regulatory framework, prompting scrutiny from consumer advocacy groups. As these proposed amendments are set for discussion before implementation, it becomes imperative for stakeholders to evaluate the fairness and practicality of these measures.
Transparency and equitable considerations must underpin these regulations to ensure that they do not unduly burden consumers already navigating economic challenges amidst declining electricity consumption. The imposition of charges and penalties underscore the necessity for fair and practical regulatory measures that do not disproportionately burden consumers.