Mumbai, Jun 30 (PTI) Maharashtra energy minister Nitin Raut has asked state-owned Mahadiscom to set up helpdesk to address consumers' grievances after state electricity regulator MERC supported the utilities saying the bills charged by the discoms were as per the rules.

Following the consumers' complaints over inflated bills in June, MERC had sought clarification from the discoms.

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Maharashtra Electricity Regulatory Commission (MERC), later observed that the discoms had followed the rules of "practise direction".

"The present bills raised on actual meter readings are of the summer months where the consumption is normally high and the bills are always of higher amounts. Hence the balance amount payable after adjusting the average bill amounts for each of the three months March, April and May have led to higher bill that was issued in June," it said.

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MERC has also asked the utilities to provide the option of easy monthly instalments (EMI) and directed them to not disconnect power supply over non-payment of dues until grievances are redressed.

Raut directed Mahadiscom to set up helpdesk at divisional levels and also take initiatives to spread awareness among customers about the billing process by reaching out through various platforms like TV, radio, webinar and Facebook, among others.

The state discom has decided to allow EMI option for three months for making the payment of the bill for June.

Raut also asked the discom to grant a discount of two per cent to consumers who have promptly paid the bills for June as well as for those who would be paying the bill amount in lump sum.

Also, those who had left for their villages during the lockdown period but have paid the bills for the three months on estimated basis, would get a refund in case they have paid extra amount.

Many consumers, including celebrities like Taapsee Pannu, Huma Qureshi, director Bijoy Nambiar and Renuka Shahane, took to Twitter to express concerns over the unexpected rise in their electricity bills during the lockdown.

According to MERC, all these utilities have dropped tariffs after the commission's revision order from April 1.

However, since the country went into lockdown from March 25, following the COVID outbreak, the bills were calculated as per the previous readings. 

Adani Electricity reduced 12 per cent power tariff for all categories, followed by Tata Power (10 per cent), Mahadiscom (five per cent) and BEST (one per cent).

According to MERC, only 6.35 lakh consumers across state were billed on actual meter readings during the lockdown, which is nearly 2.32 per cent of the total consumer base in the state.

However, MERC has already approved installation of 7 lakh meters for Adani and 66,000 meters for Tata Power, it said.

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