Electricity overbilling is not a trending issue in Pakistan.
But today, we will discuss something unusual, you may call it technical cheating by electricity providers.
It’s electricity overcharging by delaying the meter reading.
But how does it happen?
I will explain it, bear with me.
The electricity cost per unit is Rs 10.20 for up to 300 units and Rs 17.60 afterward.
Here lies the catch, the delayed meter reading cost you higher tariff rate (over 300 units @ Rs 17.60) for some of the units consumed.
Still confused? Look at the table below.
Change In Date
Suppose your monthly electricity consumption is around 300 units. And the meter reading date is 15th of each month.
Normal Meter Reading
On the 15th of April, the meter indicates a total of 300 units consumed.
The cycle continues with a meter reading on 15th of each month until September. So, the total units consumed in the April-September period will be 1800.
1800 units @ Rs 10.20 per unit = Rs 18,360
Delayed Meter Reading
In April, the meter reading is taken on 22nd day instead of 15th. Consider you used 70 units in that week (15th to 22nd).
Now, your total units in April will be 370, because late reading adds 70 units of the next cycle in April.
Next month, the reading date is regular i.e. on the 15th of May.
Now, the reading period reduces to three weeks in May (22nd to 15th), so the units consumed will be relatively lower, i.e. 230.
In June, the reading is delayed again for a week, so the units consumed are 370.
This process continues until September.
Now, we have three months (April, June, and August) with delayed meter reading and a total of 200 units above the threshold of 300 units (70+70+60).
1600 units @ Rs 10.20 = Rs 16,320
200 units @ Rs 17.60 = Rs 3,520
16,320 + 3,520 = Rs 19,840
So, with on-time meter reading, the cost of electricity is Rs 18,360, while with delayed meter reading, the cost increases to Rs 19,840.
Keep in mind, the units consumed in both cases are the same, i.e. 1800.
Now you got it, a week delay in the meter reading for three times increases the cost of electricity by Rs 1480.
And this is just the cost of electricity. Add sales tax and other surcharges, the number hits 2,000.
Hence, it’s super easy for the electric company for overcharging you Rs 2,000 with a smart and technical move.
By the way, I calculated the said amount with an average consumption of 300 units. The actual electricity overcharging may vary depending on the number of units consumed. So, it can be more or less than Rs 2,000.
How I Spotted Overbilling
The meter reading in my neighborhood is conducted on or around 17th of every month. For the purpose, I noted the reading for every single day between 17th and 24th of July.
The actual meter reading was taken on 24th, but the reading date on the electricity bill was 17th of July
How Can You Verify
Check the number of units consumed on your bill between April and September. If the difference is more than 100 units, then you are likely overcharged.
Note, if you consume less than 250 units in the billing cycle, you will not be affected. Because the total units will not cross 300 mark even with a delayed reading.
Cumulative Electricity Overbilling
Let’s calculate the amount of overbilling in my District Sialkot. As per the census of 2017, there are around 574,000 households in the district.
We consider that 200,000 households consume around 300 units per month in the April-September period, and the overcharged amount is Rs 2,000.
200,000 households x Rs 2,000 = Rs 400,000,000
So, the electricity overbilling in District Sialkot amounts to Rs 400 million.
Again, this amount is based on my assumption, and real figures may vary.
On the flip side, Industrialists owe millions to the electricity providers, but they are unable (or unwilling) to collect the dues, a sad story that resembles the GIDC ordeal.
Take GEPCO for an example.
The active defaulters (still consumers) of GEPCO owe around Rs 50 million.
And the non-active defaulters (meters disconnected) owe more than Rs 300 million.
Almost all of the defaulters belong to the industrial sector.
Keep in mind, the amount (Rs 350 million) includes defaulters, who have bills payable of one million rupees or more. That means the total default amount is much more than that.
Remember, these companies won’t let you if you owe a few thousand, but for millions, you can go Scot free.
How pity it is to overbill the electricity consumers who pay on time while owing millions of Rupees to the defaulters.
The high cost of electricity has already made it difficult for the middle class to manage their bills. Nonetheless, the electricity companies keep finding ways to overcharge their consumers.
One of the techniques is delayed meter reading. The meter reader notes the reading a few days or a week later than usual to add more units in the current billing cycle.
Now if the consumer uses around 300 units, the delayed reading adds high tariff units in the current cycle which would be paid on standard rates in the next month.
The summer spans over six months in Pakistan and electricity providers can easily overcharge their consumers just by delaying the meter reading.
The companies involved in electricity overbilling are unable to collect millions of rupees from the industrial defaulters.
Do you check your electricity bill? Are you overcharged?