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Friday, February 16, 2024

Nepra Report Exposes Overbilling by Power Distribution Companies

Nepra's report exposes a 'controversial power theft drive' by distribution companies, revealing a systematic scheme of deceptive meter readings and billing malpractices that defrauded millions of consumers, prompting recommendations for legal action and urgent reforms.

The National Electric Power Regulatory Authority (Nepra) has exposed a widespread and deliberate trend of deceptive meter reading and billing practices by power distribution companies (Discos) and K-Electric in its recent inquiry report.

The report, released on Monday, reveals a massive power theft drive where millions of consumers were defrauded of billions of rupees through excessive billing, engaging in malpractices to conceal operational inefficiencies.

According to Nepra, the distribution companies intentionally engaged in malpractices, manipulating billing cycles, issuing bills with invalid snapshots, and overcharging domestic consumers during July and August 2023.

This controversial power theft drive not only defrauded consumers but also resulted in the alteration of billing slabs, changing the status of consumers from protected to unprotected, and from lifeline to non-lifeline.

Discos’ Failures and Overbilling Impact

The inquiry report highlights that over 5.7 million consumers in Multan Electric Power Company (Mepco) and around 1.2 million in Gujranwala Electric Power Company (Gepco) were billed for more than a 30-day billing cycle, leading to unjustified billing and reclassification of consumer categories.

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The defective meters, not replaced in violation of regulations, resulted in thousands of consumers being charged for periods longer than two months, even up to three years or longer. Furthermore, discrepancies in meter readings, invalid snapshots, and mismatches between snapshots and bills were found across all Discos.

The power regulator noted that detection bills charged by Discos were fake and frivolous, leading to significantly low recovery ratios in some companies. The failure to follow Consumer Service Manual (CSM) clauses and tariff terms and conditions led to overbilling, impacting Disco recovery rates, increasing Aggregate Technical and Commercial (AT&C) losses, and causing more load shedding.

Nepra’s Recommendations and Legal Actions

In response to the findings, Nepra recommended legal proceedings against all Discos for violations, immediate replacement of defective meters, revision of inflated bills, and actions against officials involved in illegal practices.

the report also suggested the procurement of Handheld Units (HHU) for transparent meter readings and scrutiny of unrecovered detection bills for authenticity and recovery. Discos were advised to strictly follow the provisions of the CSM in meter readings, percentage checking, issuance of detection bills, and replacement of defective meters.

The regulator concluded that Discos were charging excessive and detection bills through illegal and unlawful practices, violating Nepra Act, CSM, tariff terms and conditions, and other applicable documents.