June 24, 2024, 12:40 pm

Suffering mounts over electricity: Limitless complaints against prepaid meter charges

  • Update Time : Friday, May 24, 2024
  • 12 Time View

TDS Desk:                                                                                   

Prepaid meters were introduced to alleviate the sufferings of electricity consumers, but this system has now turned into a source of distress.

Numerous complaints have surfaced about money being deducted at unusually high rates.

Consumers argue that this is a new method of exploitation.

For several months, customers have been voicing their grievances about the excessive charges on prepaid electricity meters through various channels, including social media platforms like Facebook.

These complaints have been corroborated by discussions with residents from several districts, including Dhaka.

Shahnaz Pradhan, a resident of Dhaka’s Mirpur-12, reported excessive charges on her prepaid meter.

“No one has been in my house for the last six months due to these high charges. Only a fridge and two webcams are connected, yet I have paid Tk13,000 in bills so far. I have lodged several complaints over the last six months, but nothing has been done,” she said.

Similarly, Sharif Uddin Sabuj, a resident of Sadar Upazila in Narayanganj district, complained on social media: “For the last two months, I have been paying Tk2,000 per month for electricity. Regardless of whether the power plant is operational, these charges remain the same. This is an intolerable situation.”

In response to these growing concerns, Supreme Court lawyers have recently issued legal notices demanding an urgent review and audit of electricity billing practices, increased transparency, refunds for excess charges, improved public communication, and policy reforms.

The legal notice was sent to several authorities, including the Energy and Power Secretary, chairman of the Power Grid Company of Bangladesh, Bangladesh Energy Regulatory Commission, Bangladesh Power Development Board, Bangladesh Rural Development Board, Dhaka Electric Supply Company Limited (Desco), West Zone Power Distribution Company Limited (WZPDCL), Northern Electricity Supply Company, and Dhaka Power Distribution Company Limited (DPDC).

When asked about the legal notice, Habibur Rahman, senior secretary of the Power Division at the Ministry of Power, Energy and Mineral Resources,  said: “I am not yet aware of the notice, but the allegations of overcharging on prepaid meters are not entirely accurate. We have investigated these complaints and found no substantial evidence. However, we will further examine whether there are any issues with the meters.”

He explained: “Customers often misunderstand how billing works. For instance, if someone previously used 200 units, they think the bill will triple if they use 600 units. But that’s not the case. The bill is lower for the first 50 units, and it gradually increases beyond that.”

Regarding additional charges, he added: “The price of a meter is around Tk6,000-7,000. We do not charge customers for meter repairs. There is a fixed monthly charge of Tk40 for the prepaid meter, which has been in place for ten years. Customers may not be aware of this. We will address any discrepancies if they exist.”

The legal notice, sent by Advocate Abdullah Al Hadi on behalf of Supreme Court Advocates AM Jamiul Haque Faisal, Kamrul Hasan Regan, and Zakir Haider, said that despite the goal of covering all electricity users with prepaid meters by 2025, consumers continue to suffer from excessive and hidden charges and a lack of transparency.

These problems have led to widespread public discontent and financial hardship for consumers . But no action to correct the situation has been taken yet. In this situation, there is an urgent need for a review and audit of billing practices, transparency, refunds of overcharges, public communication, and policy reforms.

It is also mentioned in the notice that necessary measures are being requested to be taken by May 26. The lawyers mentioned in the notice that necessary legal action will be taken in case of a failure to take such measures.

 

 

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