Authorities must announce halt of ‘ghost’ electricity bills

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There have always been allegations that the power division collects inflated electricity bills. This has increased during the coronavirus crisis. The main reason behind it was the supply companies could not visit the residential buildings to check electric metres due to the coronavirus outbreak.

The power division made an announcement earlier that no one has to pay any penalty or extra charges for pending bills during the pandemic. The pending bills, however, have to be cleared by 30 June. If there is any inconsistency in the March and April bills, it will be adjusted in the May bills. Many consumers have alleged that the power division did not follow this announcment.

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The authorities, however, claimed they did not make any 'ghost' or inflated bills. They said, people used electricity more because they stayed at home longer during the lockdown. But this is not consistent with reports from various places in Dhaka and outside of the capital.

State Minister for Power, Energy and Mineral Resources Nasrul Hamid, however, said 500,000 consumers had received unreasonable bills. The power distribution authorities have been working to fix that. He said, the authorities made the mistake while averaging the bills.

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A resident of Dhaka's Circular Road complained that he used to get an average bill of Tk 1,800 before the lockdown, the bill has tripled in the last three months. An official of a private company said that despite being a prepaid customer, he was billed Tk 1,200 a month without checking his metre. Mohammad Hanif, a resident of Chattogram's Chandnaish Upazila, said he received Tk 11,492 bill for the last three months. He argued that it was not realistic that a resident of a small town would use electricity for around Tk 4,000 a month.

If there is an abnormal bill in normal times, the customer can go to the office and settle the matter. But at this crisis moment it is difficult. Even so, the customers have been going to the power supply offices despite the pandemic. The government must put an end to the sufferings of the consumers.

Dhaka Electricity Supply Company Limited (DESCO) and Dhaka Power Distribution Company (DPDC) supply electricity to the residences in Dhaka and Bangladesh Energy Regulatory Commission supplies electricity in rural areas. All the three companies have expanded their customer service centres. Allegations of ghost bills have also increased. So what is the benefit of additional service centres?

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According to several sources, the power distribution companies are working on an agreement with the government and a target has been set. At the end of the year, companies impose higher bills on customers to cover the deficit. Many customers do not object in fear of harassment and the frustration of not getting any remedy. As a result, the companies steal large sums of money from the customers. This is very worrying. The practice of blaming customers for the company's shortcomings should be avoided.

If there is an abnormal bill in normal times, the customer can go to the office and settle the matter. But at this crisis moment it is difficult. Even so, the customers have been going to the power supply offices despite the pandemic. The government must put an end to the sufferings of the consumers. Since the state minister for power has admitted 500,000 unreasonable bills, these bills have to be suspended with an official announcement from the power distribution companies. The suffering and anxiety of the consumers must be resolved.

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