The extent of regulatory failure in the nation’s electricity industry is absolutely disastrous. Every power distribution company in the nation illegally overcharged citizens in July and August of this year, when the sudden and sharp increase in the electricity tariff approved by the PDM government first became apparent and caused widespread protests and anger, according to an investigation done by the National Electric Power Regulatory Authority.According to the Nepra investigation, millions of consumers in those two months were essentially in double jeopardy because of the much higher tariff as well as the extra fees brought on by the illegal billing practices of electricity distribution companies.
All 11 power distribution companies were found guilty of malpractices on one or more counts, ranging from unilaterally altering the billing period to inaccurately accounting for units consumed to sending customers fictitious and frivolous “detection” bills that were “on average.”Nepra, however, completely ignored a larger scandal in its inquiry report, which exposes its own responsibility for the situation. The regulator has been aware of the most widespread infraction carried out by electricity distribution companies since at least September 2021.Over two years prior, a local media-covered investigative report revealed that a minimum of eight Discos had been habitually overcharging their clients by charging them for longer than the permitted 30-day billing period.
The results of the report were formally acknowledged by Nepra, the PTI’s Hammad Azhar, and the then-energy minister. Violations would be dealt with, too. It’s evident now that no action was taken, as only one distribution company, the privately held K-Electric, appears to have tried to change the way it bills customers.In the midst of an economically devastating crisis, millions of customers were overcharged, and Nepra appears to be more at fault than anyone else. It begs the question of why, for a period of two years, it did not act when it became apparent that Discos were infringing on billing agreements and denying common people the tariffs to which they were legally entitled.
In addition to the immediate implementation of restorative and corrective measures to make up for overcharged customers, the responsible Discos ought to be held accountable for their malpractices and made to pay a portion of the total amount of the violations they committed. Making an example of each of the worst violators’ responsible individuals is necessary.Nepra must also initiate an internal investigation to find out why its own representatives took so long to act and didn’t act appropriately much earlier, especially given that the extent of the issue was already known. This is an enormously catastrophic failure that cannot be ignored.