The power consumers of Karachi are not only
subjected to discriminatingly high tariffs than the rest of the
country but are also increasingly forced to foot excessively high
bills. In any civilized society, complaints of such rampant excessive
billing would have been taken seriously by the power service provider
but such is not the fate of the consumers of this megapolis.
PAGE visited KESC's billing office at Hyderi,
North Nazimabad and witnessed the helplessness of the consumers to
unsucessfully convince the authorities about excessive billing. The
majority of complaints comprised erratic billing with no change in
pattern of consumption or addition of any electrical appliances. For
instance, a residential consumer in North Karachi was billed for 162
units in April received a bill for consumption of 383 units in May
depicting an increasing of 136 per cent in power consumption in just
one month. The sudden jump in monthly consumption in the bill had come
without the slightest change in consumption pattern of the consumer
during the two billing periods including usage of any additional
electrical appliances. In June, the consumer was billed for 257 units
which was lower than the 383 units billed the previous month but still
higher than the 200 units billed in April.
Just how much this pattern of erratic billing cost
the consumer is evident from the amounts they represent. The 162 units
billed in April cost the consumer Rs 400.00, 383 units in May cost
inflated his bill to Rs 1,400.00 while 257 units billed in June cost
him Rs 800. If this is not erratic billing than what is? Only a faulty
meter can churn out such erratic readings resulting in such erratic
billing and defending the billing, even if based on meter reading,
hardly makes any sense to the consumer. The question is: why not check
the meters as requested by the consumers instead of defending the
billing no matter how absurd it looks? The practice of treating
regularly bill paying consumers like thieves should stop.
When the consumer pointed out the flaw of the
erratic billing and asked the staff at the billing office to check the
meter, both the lower and the middle level staff tried to
"convince" him that since the bill was issued after reading
"it got to be correct." The "convincing" included
veiled threat of obliging the consumer's request for the checking of
the meter, churning out reading resulting in such erratic billing, by
casually dropping the hint that the consumer should be ready to pay
for "consequences of meter tempering."
Certainly the KESC authorities have found a novel
way to persuade the consumers not to file complaints about excessive
billing to keep on paying their erratic and high bills sheepishly. Is
this the way to handle the genuine complaints of the consumers about
highly erratic billing which are costing them heavily financially. In
addition, what kind of a recourse do the consumers have when
authorities insist so vehemently about the health of KESC bills
despite much too obvious an erratic billing.
PAGE also met a mother and son who have been
making rounds of the said KESC billing department for last three
months. They are the residents of a 120 yard house in Khandoo Goth,
Block B, North Nazimabad. Talking about their woes they said they hail
to a low income family and have made numerous rounds of the billing
department to file written applications that the old power meter
installed at their residence has "gone free years ago."
"We have been receiving highly erratic bills for years and the
situation has reached a situation where we just cannot afford to pay
them anymore. We have filed a number of written complaints and were
told by the KESC staff that they could do nothing and we keep on
getting billed for a meter which has gone berserk to consume power
only when necessary and yet we keep receiving the wrong bills."
Informed sources told PAGE that the new meters
installed by the KESC are much faster than the ones used by it
previously. "The old Chinese and locally made meters were okay
but the new ones installed by the corporation are as much as 70 per
cent faster than the previous ones. In addition, the majority of
average bills, issued on the basis of average consumption instead of
actual meter reading, particularly in the katchi abadis are inflated
to mask extra units."
Though the over billing practice is aimed at
lessening the heavy Transmission and Distribution losses, which stands
at around high 40 per cent, it is highly unethical as collectively
punishes the consumers for the misdeeds of individual consumers.
Sources said that complaints about excess billing is on the rise and
the job is made more difficult as KESC does not have sufficient staff
to check the individual meters across the length and breadth of the
In any other part of the world the shoddy treatment
meted out to the consumers approaching the KESC to rectify genuine
complaints about excess billing should have been accorded the top
priority it merits. However, such is not the fate of the power
consumers of Karachi as KESC keeps on meting out collective punishment
against all norms of fair business ethics. Isn't it time to treat the
consumers with a little more respect?