Braving the highest-ever electricity tariff, hapless consumers seeking instalments to pay heavy bills because of financial difficulties are now legally bound to pay a 14 per cent markup on delayed payments and will be disqualified from subsequent part-payment facilities for a year.

This is in addition to a 10pc late payment surcharge (LPS) if a bill is not paid within the deadline prescribed on the consumer bill.

The National Electric Power Regulatory Authority (Nepra) has notified this through an amendment in the Consumer Service Manual (CSM) on the demand of the Power Division and its subordinate distribution companies (Discos), but it would also apply to K-Electric consumers.

However, the regulator rejected a series of drastic punitive actions against electricity consumers, including heavy urgent fees for new connections on priority, restrictions and penalties on multiple connections at one premises, and an increase in penalties on detection bills issued by power companies for suspicious consumption, such as slow meters, defective meters, or theft.

In its notification, Nepra said there would be no markup or LPS if the first instalment is paid within the due date if a consumer requests the instalment of the current month’s bill.

However, “the remaining instalments shall be paid with the markup at 14pc per annum on a pro-rata basis” and the instalment facility shall be allowed only once in any financial year.

The notification also required that the consumers “shall” request extensions in due dates to pay bills before the due date. Discos and KE would generate computerised bills, allowing instalments and extensions on due dates.

Former member of the Energy Planning Commission Syed Akhtar Ali criticised Nepra’s decision. He said that if Nepra was now allowing a markup on instalments, it should also regulate LPS rates, as a 10pc LPS or markup for a month was very high and unjustified.

He said the LPS should not be more than 2pc even in view of the prevailing market-based policy rate of 22pc. “This is [a] one-sided decision”, he said, adding “When you allowing [sic] Discos to improve their revenue through 14pc markup on instalments, you need to reduce LPS. It is excessive”.

A Nepra official said the 14pc markup was already being charged to consumers by Discos on their own and was only regularised by the regulator after a public hearing.

He said the regulator had rejected the Discos’ demand for an ‘urgent fee’ of Rs15,000 single-phase and Rs30,000 for a three-phase meter in case consumers wanted early connection.

This fee was in addition to the normal fee and charges for new connections to domestic or commercial consumers up to 15 kilowatts and up to 8kw of industrial and agricultural consumers where only energy meters and cable are involved but no distribution transformer.

At present, new connections are provided to these categories within 30 days against payment of Rs8,500-11,500 for single-phase meters involving 20-40-metre cable and between Rs36,500 to Rs50,000 for 3-phase meters.

Discos had also sought permission to confiscate electric appliances and equipment besides imposing heavy penalties like ‘detection bills’ equivalent to five years of power consumption against consumers and premises found in electricity theft to make up for the energy losses.

Also, they sought the removal of multiple connections and separate electricity meters on residential premises that do not have direct and separate entrances from the main roads.

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