The number of domestic electricity consumers opting for online payment has gone up by about five times in two years. The Tamil Nadu Generation and Distribution Corporation (TANGEDCO) is now planning to achieve a coverage of 50 per cent of consumers in one year.
In October 2011, the number of consumers who used the mode of online payment was around 2.8 lakhs. At present, it is about 15 lakhs. Given the present total strength of domestic consumers of around 1.8 crore, the TANGEDCO wants the figure to touch the 90-lakh mark in the next 12 months.
On an average, the Corporation now nets Rs. 180 crore from domestic consumers every month through the mode of online payment.
The main reason for the increase in coverage is that the authorities have roped in more banks. In May 2011, only six banks were available for online payment of power bills. Now, the number is 17. Barring the State Bank of India, which charges Rs. 10 per transaction, others do not levy service charge. An official of the Corporation points out that the facility of online payment is available to customers of most of the important banks.
Another official says that when the TANGEDCO raised the issue of transaction charge with the SBI, its response was that this was being done as a matter of policy for internet banking operations and there was no scope for making an exception.
For the purpose of increasing the coverage, field officials all over the State have been advised to provide greater publicity regarding the arrangements for online payment. To make online payment, one has to visit the Corporation’s website (https://www.tnebnet.org/awp/home) and log in.
Apart from net banking, consumers can make payment through debit cards or credit cards through the internet. The payment through credit cards is available to customers of 18 banks and three banks - Indian Bank, Indian Overseas Bank and Canara Bank - are offering the facility through debit cards.
The authorities are also contemplating extending the system of collection of power bills through bank counters to IOB, Indian Bank, Canara Bank and the State Bank of India. At present, this is available with the City Union Bank and the Tamilnad Mercantile Bank, and 30,000 consumers are using this facility every month. A service charge of Rs. 5 is being collected by the banks. Payment through post offices, where a service charge of Rs. 10 is levied, is availed by around 1.2 lakh consumers.
Even though different modes of payment have been provided for consumers, the Corporation’s priority is to increase the coverage of online payment rapidly so that the consumers are able to avoid the hassle of standing in queues and spending their time, says another official.