ISLAMABAD: The National Electric Power Regulatory Authority (Nepra) on Wednesday vowed action against power distribution companies for overbilling, saying that DISCOs would be directed to refund their consumers the excess amounts, charged in electricity bills, ARY News reported.
The development came after the Nepra exposed the “most controversial power theft drive” of the power distribution companies (Discos), defrauding consumers of billions of rupees by overcharging them as much as 100 percent.
The regulatory authority, in its inquiry report, claimed that the distribution companies were intentionally engaging in such malpractices to conceal their inefficiencies, causing thousands of consumers to suffer from higher electricity bills.
While hearing a petition regarding Central Power Generation Company (CPGC) Block 2 tariff today, the regulatory authority said that it has decided to take legal action against power distribution companies.
The authority noted that it would direct the DISCOs to refund their consumers the excess amounts, they charged in electricity bills. In this regard, NEPRA said, it has already penned down letters to two distribution companies.
“A decision, in this regard, will be taken after a public hearing on the investigation report,” it added.
Earlier in the day, the power division constituted a four-member committee to investigate “controversial power theft drive” of the power distribution companies (DISCOs), defrauding consumers of billions of rupees through overbilling.
In a notification issued today, the Power Division said that former secretary power Irfan Ali will head the four-member committee – which consists MD NESPAK Zargham Ishaq, Abid Lodhi and Director Energy Institute LUMS Dr Fayyaz Chaudhry.
As per the Terms of Reference (TORs), the committee will review the NEPRA’s report based on data of power distribution companies (DISCOs) and Power Information Technology Company (PITC).
The committee will also question officials of power companies and NEPRA’s investigation team. It has been directed to submit its recommendations within 15 days.
NEPRA inquiry report
The NEPRA has found that millions of consumers were overcharged during the months of July and August, prompting the body to initiate legal action against K-Electric (KE) and other power distribution companies.
“There is not a single Disco in the country who is charging bills in 100pc correct manner,” the power regulatory authority said in its 14-page report.
The inquiry was launched after consumers from all over the country complained of “excessive, inflated, and wrong bills” charged by Discos in July and August 2023.
Following the complaints, the power regulator held detailed hearings during which it found that the actual amount charged to users differed from the snapshot of meter-reading available on their bills. In some cases, snapshots were “either invisible or deliberately not taken”.
Similarly, some cases were reported that monthly meter readings are being taken beyond the billing cycle of 30 days, which resulted in undue/inflated charging of upper slab bills to the less user consumer(s) hence, changing the category from protected to un-protected”.
Multan Electric Power Company (Mepco), Lahore Electric Supply Company (Lesco), Quetta Electric Supply Company (Qesco) and Sukkur Electric Power Company (Sepco) sent the most bills with invalid snapshots.
As per the notified tariff terms and conditions, the billing period means a billing month of 30 days or less reckoned from the date of the last meter reading.
However, the above findings showed that billing cycles carried out by different DISCOs range from 30 days to 40 days and in some instances, even more.
The authority said it is “alarmingly noted” that thousands of consumers were charged for more than 40 days of billing.
The allegations have been levelled at a time when the Discos are carrying out a countrywide campaign against power theft.