After having received a shock when it came to electricity tariff rates, the city’s residents are now hesitant to switch on their air-conditioners despite the temperature continuing to remain relatively high.

Domestic consumers have found that the first bill received after the power tariff hike, which came into effect on April 1, is much higher than what they used to pay.

As per the new tariff hike, those who consume above 500 units will have to shell out Rs 5.75 from the 501st unit. And it is the middle class that has been hit hard by the steep hike, as the government has done away with subsidies for those consuming above 500 units. “On an average, every middle class householder consumes over 500 units bi-monthly during the summer, as most homes run air-conditioners,” says Roy Rozario, general secretary of People’s Voice, a non-governmental organisation.

Mr. Roy, who stays in Pattabiram, said that in June 2010, his electricity meter reading showed a power consumption was 900 units and he paid a bill of Rs. 2,200. “This time around, since I had purchased some electrical equipment, the consumption increased to 960 units. But my electricity bill was Rs. 4,600,” he said.

Similar is the plight of Vasanthi Sriram, a resident of Thoraipakkam. There are two senior citizens in her family, both unwell. “They need hot water for bathing, and so we have two water heaters. We have three air-conditioners . Before the tariff hike, I used to pay a bill of Rs. 5,000. Last month I paid a bill of Rs. 10,000,” she said.

Though aware of the tariff hike, most consumers were not prepared for such high bills. “The slab beyond which the government subsidy gets cut and a high tariff is charged should be increased from 500 units to 1,000 units. Then it makes sense,” said Mr. Rozario.

Maintenance charges in apartment complexes have also shot up. “We tried using Compact Fluorescent Lamps but they did not have as much impact. Maintenance charges were Rs. 500 before, now they are Rs 1,000,” said S.N. Lalitha, who is a Mylapore resident.

Asked what aggrieved consumers could do, a Tamil Nadu Electricity Regulatory Commission official said the legal position was that if consumers wanted to file an appeal, they could have done so within 45 days of the issue of the order, by approaching the Appellate Tribunal. Now, they would have to seek permission first to condone the delay in filing a petition.