Issue There is a forum and an ombudsman for complaints on electricity transmission
E nergy has become a part of our lives and we cannot imagine life without electricity. Electricity transmission and distribution continues to be the monopoly of the State and the Tamil Nadu Electricity Regulatory Commission — TNERC, is the authority that governs the overall functioning of the department, which includes performance standards, tariff, protecting the interests of consumers and so on.
In an earlier column, written two years ago, we had discussed the compensation for deficiency in services as laid down in the Regulations put forth by the TNERC and the existence of the Consumer Grievance Redressal Forum (CGRF), a redress mechanism available within the system, for consumers to approach if the issue was not sorted out at the initial stage of complaining. The Superintendent Engineer of the region is the Chairman of the CGRF. If not satisfied with the resolution offered, the consumers can approach the Electricity Ombudsman. Recently, to understand the level of awareness about the existence of the Forum amongst the general public, we did a survey in four districts of Tamil Nadu and were surprised to find that most people were unaware that such a Forum exists which they could approach in case of a problem. In addition, we also filed applications under the Right to Information Act to know the number of complaints received during a three-month period and from the responses, realised that there were very few or none filed in many Forums during the said time. Based on the study, we submitted our recommendations to the TNERC demanding that they create adequate and continuing awareness about the procedures for redress and compensation by publicising widely in the print and visual media and displaying details in all EB offices.
Amongst others, another important intervention that we have made lately to the TNERC is with regard to the white meter card. The present card carries only details of the responsibilities of the consumers. No where do we find any mention of the duties of the utility towards consumers. With the intention to address this issue and thus improve transparency and awareness, we prepared a draft card which will carry information about the address of the CGRF of the locality along with particulars of compensation. This was submitted to the authorities concerned who showed keen interest on the suggestions made.
Let us hope that the TNERC gives due consideration to the above mentioned issues which are of public interest and takes necessary action to ensure that the common man is benefited.
(The writer works with CAG, which offers free advice on consumer complaints to its members. For membership details/queries contact 24914358/ 24460387 or firstname.lastname@example.org)