Dushyant Singh Pundir
Chandigarh, May 25
Nearly three months after the UT Administration introduced charges for various services at Sampark centres in the city, it has withdrawn facilitation fee being charged from consumers against payment of electricity bills, both offline and through its portal.
The decision comes on the directions of the Joint Electricity Regulatory Commission (JERC). The department had been charging Rs 20 for each power bill payment at Sampark centre counters and Rs 10 for payment through the online mode.
Rupesh Kumar, Director, Information Technology, UT, said the facilitation charges on electricity bills had been withdrawn on the directions of the JERC and after getting approval of the UT Administrator. Now, the expenses would be borne by the UT Electricity Department.
Charges termed illegal at public hearing
- The Joint Electricity Regulatory Commission (JERC) recently told UT Electricity Department not to levy transaction charges on payment of bills through Sampark centres/portal
- At a JERC hearing on March 17, stakeholders had said dept was forcing consumers to pay hefty fee against payment of bills through these centres
- There was no such provision in JERC’s regulations, and action without approval/public hearing was illegal and against the Electricity Act, they had stated
- Dept was charging Rs 20 for each power bill payment at Sampark centre counters and Rs 10 for payment through the online mode
54 e-Sampark centres are located in various parts of city
2.47 LAKH total power consumers in UT, 2.14L are domestic
Rs 1 to Rs 100 fee being charged by Dept of IT for various services
According to the JERC record, there are nearly 2.47 lakh power consumers in the city, of whom 2.14 lakh are domestic. The JERC had recently directed the UT Electricity Department not to levy transaction charges on payment of bills through Sampark centres/portal.
Electricity Dept to bear cost
Facilitation charges on power bills have been withdrawn on JERC directions and after approval of the UT Administrator. Now, UT Electricity Dept will bear expenses. —Rupesh Kumar, Director, Information Technology, Chandigarh
During a public hearing of the JERC on March 17, stakeholders had submitted the department was forcing consumers to pay high transaction fee against payment of bills through these centres.
The Electricity Department has no arrangement for bill payment and is entirely dependent on Sampark centres or its portal https://sampark.chd.nic.in. For the past 10 years, the consumers were not being charged any fee, but since March, the centres had imposed exorbitant charges. Many electricity boards did not demand extra charges for paying bills online, the stakeholders had contended.
They further stated the JERC had never approved the charging of such a fee from consumers in the Supply Code (set of regulations). The action of the department in forcing the consumers to pay fee without approval/public hearing was illegal and against the Electricity Act.
Recently, the National Payment Corporation of India had directed all payment applications not to charge any platform/transaction fee from consumers.
Therefore, the stakeholder requested the commission to restrain Sampark from charging transaction fee against payment of bill and make the Electricity Department bear the cost (if any) till the time some arrangement was made by the department to adopt other modes of digital payments.
In its response, the department had submitted the facilitation charges for payment of electricity bills to be collected by Sampark centres had not been imposed by it. Instead, it was a policy decision taken at the level of the UT Administration to provide facilitation fee/charges to Sampark centres for various services being offered by these.
The commission directed the department to ensure transaction charges/fee were not recovered from consumers and these be borne by it. The Department of Information and Technology had been levying facilitation charges ranging from Re 1 to Rs 100 for various services, including at all 54 e-Sampark centres located in various parts of the city.
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