Consumers in India will now have rights to access to continuous and uninterrupted power supply as well as compensation from electricity distribution companies (discoms), as per the Centre's newly notified Electricity (Rights of Consumers) Rules.
The said regulations also mandate discoms to provide new connections within seven days in metros, 15 days in small towns, and 30 days in rural areas. Power Minister R K Singh issued the new rules on Monday to ensure the rights of electricity users, stating that the consumer is not "powerless" now.
The said regulations also provide for penalties for power distribution companies for not maintaining standards of services under the Electricity (Rights of Consumers) Rules, 2020.
"Now the consumer is not powerless... (discoms) have to provide service... if these (rules) are not adhered to, there would be penalties," Singh told reporters in a virtual media briefing on the rules.
The Ministry of Power has promulgated rules laying down the rights of consumers.
While issuing these rules, Singh said that these rules shall empower consumers of electricity.
"These rules emanate from the conviction that the power systems exist to serve consumers and consumers have the right to get the services and reliable, quality electricity. Distribution Companies across the country are monopolies - whether government or private - and the consumer has no alternative - therefore it was necessary that the consumers rights be laid down in Rules and a system for enforcement of these rights be put in place," he added.
The rules provide that it's the duty of every distribution licensee to supply electricity on request made by an owner or occupier of any premises in line with the provisions of the Electricity Act.
It is the consumers' right to have minimum standards of service for supply of electricity from the distribution licensee, it says.
The rules also provide for a transparent, simple and time bound processes for release of new connections and modification of existing ones. The rules provide that the applicant for electricity connection has an option for online application.
In addition, the discoms would have to provide or modify an electricity connection within a maximum time period of seven days in metro cities; 15 days in other municipal areas and 30 days in rural areas.
The rules also provide that no connection shall be given without a meter and it shall be a smart pre-payment meter or pre-payment meter. There will be provision for testing of meters as well as replacement of defective, burnt or stolen ones.
The rules also provide for transparency in applicable consumer tariffs and bills.
Under the rules, the consumer shall have the option to pay bills online or offline. Besides, there would also be provision for advance payment of bills.
To ensure the reliability of supply, the rules say that the discoms shall supply 24x7 power to all consumers.
However, the power regulator may specify lower hours of supply for some categories of consumers like agriculture.
Discoms are also mandated to put in place a mechanism, preferably with automated tools to the extent possible, for monitoring and restoring outages.
There will be a new category of consumers who would also generate power (prosumer). The rules say that the prosumers will maintain consumer status and have the same rights as the general consumer, they will also have the right to set up Renewable Energy (RE) generation unit including roof top solar photovoltaic (PV) systems - either by himself or through a service provider.
The rules provide for net metering for loads up to ten kW and for gross metering for loads above ten kW.
These rules also provide that the power regulator shall notify the standards of performance for the distribution licensees.
The compensation amount would be paid to the consumers by the discoms for violation of standards of performance.
Automatic compensation shall be paid to consumers for which parameters on standards of performance can be monitored remotely.
The standards of performance for which the compensation is required to be paid by discoms include no supply to a consumer beyond a particular duration which would be specified by the commission (regulator).
The discoms would have to pay compensation for number of interruptions in supply beyond the limits.
The discoms performance would be monitored on the basis of time taken for connection, disconnection, reconnection, shifting; time taken for change in consumer category, load; time taken for change in consumer details; time taken for replacement of defective meters; time period within which bills are to be served; time period of resolving voltage related complaints; and bill related complaints.
The discoms will pay a penalty to consumers for breaching time limits for delivery of services set by the commission.
The discoms would have to set up a centralised 24x7 toll-free call centre and shall endeavour to provide all services through a common Customer Relation Manager (CRM) System to get a unified view.
Their Consumer Grievance Redressal Forum (CGRF) will include consumer and prosumer representatives.
Under the rules, the consumer grievance redressal has been made easy by making it multi-layered and the number of consumer's representatives has been increased from one to four.
The licensee shall specify the time within which various types of grievances by the different levels of the forums are to be resolved.
A maximum timeline of 45 days is specified for grievance redressal under the rules.
The rules provide for use of online access to various services such as application submission, monitoring status of application, payment of bills, status of complaints raised, etc., to consumers through its website, web portal, mobile app and its various designated offices area-wise.
The discoms shall provide all services such as application submission, payment of bills, etc., to senior citizens at their door-steps.
The details of scheduled power outages shall be informed to the consumers.
In case of unplanned outage or fault, immediate intimation shall be given to the consumers through SMS or by any other electronic mode along with estimated time for restoration.
(With inputs from PTI.)