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Last Updated : Jul 06, 2020 12:19 PM IST | Source: Moneycontrol.com

Inflated electricity bill: Should you pay in instalments or settle it in a single lump-sum?

You will have to stop or pause the auto-debt facility if you have disputes with inflated bills

On June 28, Rahul Parekh, a resident of Mumbai, posted a photo of his recent ‘inflated’ electricity bill on social media. He claimed that the power distribution company has asked him to pay almost Rs 27,000 as per his latest bill, as opposed to the Rs 2,000-3,000 that he usually pays every month.

Far way in Chennai, Ganesa Bangaru too raised a complaint on social media. He had paid Rs 2,349 for electricity in the month of March, whereas he is now being asked to pay almost Rs 29,000 in June. Bangaru says that his entire month’s salary went towards paying the electricity bill.

Recently, there have been thousands of complaints on social media from consumers about inflated power bills for the month of June. Complaints are pouring in against power distribution companies of Mumbai, Delhi, Chennai, etc.

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Also Read: Inflated electricity bills in Mumbai: Arshad Warsi complains about heavy bill, deletes tweet later after issue resolved

Here are the immediate steps you should take to save on paying higher electricity usage charges.

Why have electricity bills zoomed for June?

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and nationwide lockdown since March 25, physical meter readings were discontinued and have been gradually resumed from June onwards. According to Maharashtra Electricity Regulatory Commission (MERC) instructions, the power distribution companies in Mumbai (Adani Electricity, Tata Power, etc.) had billed customers for March, April and May on the average consumption of the previous three months – December, January and February. Since, those were winter months, the average bill during lockdown months was also lower.

A spokesperson for Adani Electricity said, “In the lockdown months, the actual consumption has increased since many people have been working from home and these were months of summer wherein usually there is high consumption of units.”

The power distribution companies in Mumbai are stating that any payment made by you during the lockdown months is adjusted while revising the billing for the period as per your actual reading. The bill issued in June includes the consumption of units in May as well as differential consumption over estimation of March and April. This is leading to higher charges on your bill.

A spokesperson for Brihanmumbai Electricity Supply and Transport (BEST) said, “In case of any fault in meter readings and calculations from our side, we will rectify the electricity bill and the amount will get adjusted in the next month’s bill.”

Other states in India had different methods to derive at electricity bills during lockdown months. So, the calculations to arrive at the charges for June vary, but there are similar complaints of inflated electricity bills from the consumers.

MERC allows bill payment in EMIs. Should I opt for this payment scheme?

Facing a backlash due to inflated electricity bills handed to customers, from July 1, the MERC has allowed power distribution companies to provide three months’ EMI facility while using credit cards to pay electricity bills. Power supply won’t be disconnected for your house if you opt for EMI the option to pay the electricity bill. Other states too may allow payments in instalments. But is it prudent to take the option?

“You shouldn’t opt for the EMI scheme to pay electricity bills, because by opting for this facility you will end up paying more,” says Harshil Morjaria, a certified financial planner at ValueCurve Financial Solutions. Banks charge interest rates of 13-15 per cent for the three months’ instalments. Additionally, you will have to pay convenience fees of Rs 99 and Goods and Services Tax (GST) on the interest component of the EMI.

Should I pay the full bill and take the two per cent discount offered?

If your cash flows and savings allow you to pay your bill as a lump-sum amount, you must definitely do so and get the two per cent discount as offered by the Maharashtra State Electricity Distribution Company. Simultaneously, you should raise a complaint with your power distribution company on the inflated bills by email or calling on helpline numbers provided on the company’s. If the power distribution company finds a fault and excess units are indeed charged by them, any excess amount paid will then be adjusted in subsequent bills.

I have an auto-debit facility for paying my bills. What should I do in such a situation?

Suppose the electricity bill amount is excessive and bank account linked with the auto-debit has inadequate balance, you should quickly opt out of the facility. Otherwise, the failed transaction will attract penalties. To stop the auto-debit facility, you should contact your bank through email or customer service helpline.

You will also have to stop or pause the auto-debt facility if you decide to raise a complaint on inflated bills. Otherwise, the disputed bill will be paid automatically 3-4 days before the due date. To deactivate this facility, you can use net-banking/mobile banking or you can even call the customer service of the bank to de-register the electricity biller.

Is it possible to pause auto-payment of my electricity bill only for one month?

Yes. There are some banks including Kotak Mahindra Bank that allow you to cancel auto-payment for a particular biller for a specific month. This facility should be availed when there are disputes related to inflated bills in a particular month. You can cancel your auto payment for a month using net-banking and the mobile banking facility. In the subsequent month, this facility will be activated again and linked with your bank account so you don’t need to register the biller again.
First Published on Jul 6, 2020 09:20 am
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