Power Consumers Facing Increased Financial Burden: Nepra’s Latest Amendment

Electricity consumers, already grappling with hefty bills and financial strain, are now confronted with a new challenge as the National Electric Power Regulatory Authority (Nepra) has introduced a 14 percent markup on instalments for delayed payments. This decision, made in response to demands from the Power Division and distribution companies (Discos), imposes additional financial burdens on consumers seeking reprieve from high electricity bills through instalment plans.

In addition to the 14 percent markup, consumers will also incur a 10 percent late payment surcharge (LPS) if bills are not settled within the stipulated deadline. Nepra’s amendment to the Consumer Service Manual (CSM) mandates these charges, affecting not only Discos but also consumers of K-Electric.

However, while Nepra has approved the imposition of the markup, it has rejected several severe punitive measures proposed by Discos. These measures included imposing hefty fees for expedited new connections, penalties for multiple connections at a single premises, and increased penalties for suspicious consumption detected by power companies.

According to the notification, consumers who opt for instalment plans and settle the first instalment by the due date will be exempt from the markup and LPS. However, subsequent instalments will incur a 14 percent markup on a pro-rata basis, and consumers will be eligible for instalment facilities only once per financial year.

Critics, including former member of the Energy Planning Commission Syed Akhtar Ali, have voiced concerns over Nepra’s decision. Ali argues that while Nepra is permitting a markup on instalments, it should also regulate LPS rates, which currently stand at an exorbitant 10 percent. He suggests that the LPS should not exceed 2 percent, considering the prevailing market-based policy rate of 22 percent.

A Nepra official defended the decision, stating that the 14 percent markup was already being levied by Discos and was only formalized by the regulator after public consultation. However, he clarified that Nepra rejected Discos’ proposal for an ‘urgent fee’ for expedited new connections.

Discos had also sought authorization to confiscate electric appliances and impose heavy penalties, including ‘detection bills’ equivalent to five years of power consumption, on consumers found engaged in electricity theft. Additionally, they requested the removal of multiple connections and separate electricity meters on residential premises lacking direct access from main roads.

Nepra’s latest amendment places an increased financial burden on electricity consumers already struggling with rising utility costs. As consumers navigate these challenges, the need for transparent and equitable energy policies remains paramount.

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