It is an all-too-familiar scene. A particular month, you get an unusually high electricity bill. Once the initial surprise wears off, you realise that you actually need to clear that amount, to keep living comfortably!
Well, a high electricity bill can indeed be a bolt from the blue, but there’s no need to panic.
There are many incidents of citizens from across the country receiving outrageously expensive electricity bills. Ghaziabad resident, Rohit Saxena, was furious when in August 2015, he received a bill of Rs 225 crore for his factory. Accustomed to a bill of approximately Rs 10,000, Rohit told India Today that he lodged a complaint with the concerned department. The result? A reduction that the department never explained. Rohit paid a final settlement of Rs 7000.
Well, if you find yourself in a similar situation with a freakishly large bill, there are a few basic steps you can carry out to check whether you’ve been charged correctly before you approach the authorities.
1. The amount you owe your electricity provider is mentioned in rupees. Calculate the units you have consumed in the bill, and compare them to the units consumed the month before, and the same month last year. If the units consumed can be compared, it merely means that the costs have gone up. The fixed cost component on the electricity bill might have also changed.
2. Notice the units consumed. Are they unusually high for your house? Compare them to your neighbour’s bill, provided you have similar electrical setups. Doing this will give you an approximate benchmark of energy usage for your own home, and allow you to figure out whether the bill amount is unduly high.
3. If you find that the units consumed are very different from the previous month or the same month last year, check your meter reading. The electricity bill meter reading is usually done manually, leaving some margin for human error.
4. Once you have checked the meter, if you find the numbers accurate, evaluate whether there are any electricity leakages in the house. Switch off the power mains and check whether the meter dial moves or changes. If it does, that denotes a broken meter. Show that to the electricity provider, and they will sympathise with you. Alternatively, check whether any other wires, that don’t belong to you are connected to your meter.
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5. If your meter is inert upon switching off the mains, put off all the appliances and turn on the mains. If the meter moves, it denotes faulty wiring in the setup, which is causing an electricity leakage. Also, check whether an appliance is connected directly to the lines without a switch.
6. Check electricity consumption appliance-wise, by keeping everything else on, and leaving the appliance you want to check on. Next, notice the meter movement. This might take time, as 1 unit increases on a meter after using around 1kWh of electricity, which roughly translates into running a 100W bulb for 10 hours or running a 1 ton AC for an hour.
7. Check the electrical wiring in your house. If it is old, then it is time for a change, as the wire insulation that has worn off over time will cause leakages. Also, a wrong method used for “earthing” may cause a power leak. Check this by turning off all appliances at home, including the inverter, and checking the reading. If it still shows some power consumption, there is some fault with the wiring.
After carrying out the above steps, if you still can’t find the anomaly in your bill, you might need to approach relevant authorities. This is how you go about it:
First, lodge a formal complaint with the local electricity board office about the issue. Chances are, the problem will get resolved at this stage itself. However, if no resolution is forthcoming, you might have to lodge a formal complaint in the consumer court.
Matters relating non-payment of a disputed bill come under the “Consumer Protection Act” as a bill amounts to the purchase of goods or availing of services. Approaching the consumer forum/court for a disputed electricity bill is not a complicated process.
1. Electricity is covered under the CPA, so you have the power to file a complaint against the Electricity Board.
2. Check the place where the service was obtained, and decide on the basis of the area where the services were availed. Next, check the cost of service, and if it is up to Rs 20 lakhs, approach the district consumer forum, or if the amount is more than Rs 20 lakhs but below Rs 1 crore, approach the State Consumer Forum, and if the cost is more than Rs 1 crore, approach the National Consumer Forum.
3. Draft a consumer complaint in consultation with a lawyer. Begin with introducing yourself in 2-3 lines, include the details of service availed, bill details, and the complaint, in this case, a high-priced electricity bill.
4. Mention the steps you have taken to redress the matter before approaching the court. For example, if you have approached the electricity board and informed them over phone or email about the electricity bill issues you face.
5. Choose jurisdiction wisely, as a complaint in the wrong one will be immediately nullified.
6. Mention the relief claim, for example, the settlement on the disputed electricity bill. Also, list out your litigation expenses and demand them as relief for fighting the matter in court.
7. Now, you will actually argue the case with a lawyer. Remember to dress formally, and carry three sets of copies if the matter is in the District or State Forum, and four sets of copies if the matter is in the National Forum. In the court, the matter will be referred to as a consumer complaint, and after the case, a free certified copy of the result will be given to litigants.
8. Ensure that you file a complaint within two years from the date of receipt of services availed. If the time limit has been exceeded, additional time might be granted upon providing sufficient reason.
In addition to the above steps if you want a more permanent solution to your power expenditures, look out for different energy sources. Renewable sources like solar power may seem expensive due to the initial installation cost; but work out to be economical in the long run. Use energy wisely and responsibly, and you won’t be overcharged!
(Edited by Gayatri Mishra)